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Friday, May 6, 2016

Red Flag Warning issued ahead of opening fishing weekend in Northwest Wisconsin

MADISON - In conjunction with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for Friday, May 6 until 8 pm for the following counties: Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett, Washburn and Sawyer.

Anglers are urged to use caution as the opening weekend of the inland fishing season tends to bring unwanted fire starts.

DNR is suspending DNR-issued burning permits in all five counties affected by the Red Flag Warning along with some additional counties throughout most of the northern half of state. The public is being asked to be especially careful with any activities that could potentially lead to a wildfire. Campfires, outdoor grills, smoking, chain saws, off-road vehicles or other small engines have the potential to throw a spark and ignite a dangerous and destructive fire. Please use extreme caution during these unusually dangerous conditions.

"History has shown that warmer temperatures, low relative humidity, gusty winds and the vegetation as dry as it is out there could lead to increased chances of fire starts," said Catherine Koele, DNR wildfire prevention specialist.

The area of greatest concern is the northern half of the state where fire danger<http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/restrictions.html> is currently hovering around Very High with no precipitation in sight. Much of the southern half of the state, where vegetation is nearing full green-up, has decreased to Moderate fire danger.

"We work very closely with the National Weather Service to make these determinations by monitoring the weather and vegetation moisture content for the next day to fine tune the exact counties at increased risk due to these conditions," said Koele. "We tend to see more fire starts over the opening weekend of fishing due to many people enjoying the outdoors, having shore lunches and using off-road vehicles. Unfortunately, these activities coupled with dry and windy conditions could lead to larger fires, threatening people, homes and surrounding communities."

Be prepared! Prevent wildfires and reduce risk around homes
Opening fishing weekend is yet another reason for many folks to get outside and start the annual tradition of cleaning up dead vegetation around homes and cabins.

Reducing wildfire risk is everyone's responsibility and that is why the DNR is also using this time of great concern to promote National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day on May 7, created by the National Fire Protection Association.

Jolene Ackerman, DNR wildland-urban interface specialist, said "the May 7 national recognition day has a goal to bring awareness to the high fire risk in spring and to teach people how to live compatibly with nature when they live or own property in wildland areas."

Wisconsin's springs are marked by an abundance of dead vegetation from last year's leaves, pine needles, grass, and food crops. "This dead vegetation cannot hold moisture and once it's dry, it will easily ignite and carry fire," Ackerman said.

Homeowners are encouraged to avoid burning this weekend and join others throughout the nation to take little actions that will make big changes when it comes to Wisconsin's wildfire season.

Only have an hour? Here are some things easily accomplished with a little time:
• Rake and remove pine needles and dry leaves within 5 feet of your home's foundation.
• Move your firewood stack to a spot 30 feet away from buildings.
• Sweep decks and patios, clearing them of leaves and pine needles. Rake under decks and dispose of the debris.
Have a day to give?
• Rake your yard, collect dead and downed tree branches and leaves, and take them to your local yard waste collection site.
• Join forces with neighbors and pool your resources to rent a chipper.
• Create and practice a home evacuation plan.
• Learn how to prepare your home by going to the DNR homepage and search keyword "ember" to download a copy of the homeowner self-assessment.

In 2016, DNR has reported a total 334 wildfires. Follow the DNR Twitter feed for updates and the homepage dnr.wi.gov<http://dnr.wi.gov/> search keyword "fire<http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/>" for the current fire danger, burning permit restrictions, fire activity and ways to protect your home and property from wildfire.

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