Hot and dry air increases wildfire risk in NE Wisconsin

DNR wants everyone to use extra caution on Memorial Day Weekend
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 4:40 PM CDT
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SUAMICO, Wis. (WBAY) - It can only take one spark to ignite a potentially catastrophic wildfire - red flags are going up in many areas as people are planning to enjoy outdoors activities over the Memorial Day weekend.

Several crews from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) just battled four fires in Northeastern Wisconsin on the days leading up to the Memorial Day weekend. With warm and dry conditions persisting, the fire danger will rather go up than down, according to a forestry ranger from Oconto Falls.

“Even green grass will burn if you get it dry enough,” said Ranger Richard Lietz.

After more than two weeks without any significant rainfall, the DNR is on high alert for wildfires.

“With the high and dry weather we’re anticipating the fire danger is going to continue to be high and or transition to be even higher than that. It really depends on what the winds are doing as well,” Lietz added.

Lietz and his colleagues are closely monitoring conditions in and around Oconto Falls.

“Obviously with the more people that are in the area, we’re in kind of a destination area with people coming up to their cabins and things like that so the more people we have the more occurrences we have,” Lietz explained.

Brown County’s reforestation camp only has two sites left empty this Memorial Day weekend. And with a full house, rangers are keeping a close eye on potential fire dangers.

“We’re definitely always watchful just to make sure things are being done safely out here so we want them to have fun but we also want them to watch their fires carefully,” said Ranger Assistant Jeff Ott from the reforestation camp.

The DNR says it’s a good idea to have a shovel, a rake and a hose handy in case flames get out of hand. Some campgrounds have built-in features to keep folks out of harms way.

“Our grills, they have a one foot tall wall so you can have a nice big enough fire that you can cook on and also keep it safe,” explained Pete Borchardt, Camp Host, Reforestation Camp.

Lietz said campfires are safe from creating wildfires - at least for the most part.

“More where the risk comes into play is if you’re for example doing some yard clean up, and you start a leaf pile on fire and there’s no containment that’s where you’ll have more issues,” he warned.

Also, whenever flames get out of control - that’s bound to end in a very dangerous situation.

“You can try to suppress it, but ideally if it’s out of your control just step back and let the fire departments and professionals put it out,” Lietz advised.

More information on fire dangers can be found on the DNR’s website at: