WISCONSIN (NBC 26) — Earlier this week, Governor Tony Evers declared a State of Emergency over wildfire conditions across Wisconsin.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), spring is the most critical fire season in Wisconsin.
The department says shortly after the snow disappears, a dry spring, or even a few days in between rain, can leave grasses, pine needles and leaf litter very dry, creating hazardous conditions.
Click here to read more details on wildfire season from the DNR.
NBC 26’s Meteorologist Brittney Merlot further explains how conditions are at the moment across Northeast Wisconsin:
“We’ve only had 1.39 inches of rainfall since March 1st. That’s it. And then on top of that, we had all the snow melt really, really quickly just last month and that didn’t help things. Usually it melts slower so it takes that risk a lot lower. It melts rapidly so our ground is really dry,” Merlot explains.
She says some other reasons for us being in an elevated fire risk is due to strong winds and dry atmosphere. Merlot also says when we take the entire state of Wisconsin and look at it, we’re all extremely dry and these conditions don’t just apply to this area.
“So we need those stronger winds, dry atmosphere basically, and then once you have that you kind of get that risk for some elevated fire risks out there,“ Merlot said.
She reminds this is an important time to avoid anything with sparks.
“Can be anything from chains hanging off your car as you’re driving down the highway, that can start grass fire. You can also throw that cigarette bud out of the window and that can start grass fires, you can also throw in that cigarette bud out of the window you don’t know where it’s going to go, where it’s going to land. That can start it one of those days," Merlot said.
The Shawno Fire Chief, Shawn Borlace, said this time of year you also want to avoid prescribed burns or any fire pits. He said the winds can easily spread those fires quickly.
And a lieutenant and paramedic with the De Pere Fire department agrees.
"No fire pits, charcoal grills you have to be extremely careful with, no burn and brush," said Neal Schweiner, De Pere Fire Department.
Firefighters say most of the time they respond to fires that were caused by human error, but these weather conditions don't help with wind a particular challenge.
"Wind speeds for one can cause the fire to spread extremely rapidly and then the wind change can cause what you thought the fire was going in one direction to go into a completely different direction that you may not have intended it to go," Schweiner said.
The Wisconsin DNR has a great resource you can check out to see a particular day's burning restriction/fire danger. You can even click and choose by county. Click here to be redirected to that site.
The DNR posted the following on their Facebook page over the weekend highlighting the fire danger across the state:
In the meantime, Merlot says there’s somewhat of good news due to humidity.
“We have the extra humidity from all this heat in the south wind. It’s been giving us humidity so we’re not at too high of a risk right now. A little bit of rainfall should help with things but it’s not going to catch us up completely,” Merlot said. “So even by next week we could be back in the same scenario again. So we want to use a lot of caution with anything that has to do with a spark at all.”