Wildfire

Edges of a blackened field still burn, the remnants of a 120-acre wildfire on April 3.

TOWN OF EVERGREEN – A wall of flames swept through the hay field, edging up to a pond and sweeping over Fox Road in the town of Evergreen, through another field, and on into the woods at the other end. In the fire's wake, smoke streamed above the blackened earth in waves, driven by bouts of wind. Scattered scraggly pines were dark against the shifting smoke, as though surrounded by some daytime version of a thick, layered fog.

Before it was contained by the Department of Natural Resources fire crews and the Spooner Fire Department, that fire on Saturday afternoon, April 3, burned through 115 acres, bypassing a couple of houses on its way.

That was exactly what the Department of Natural Resources has been warning against ahead of a holiday weekend characterized by low humidity, high winds, and dry vegetation – just the sort of conditions that have the potential to turn a mistake or an accidental or careless action into a massive wildfire.

All of the state is at a very high fire danger for the weekend, and burning permits for burning barrels, debris piles, and grass or wooden areas are suspended. People are asked to limit campfires (or no ignite them at all), and be cautious with off-road vehicles and any equipment that could spark.

The DNR said on Saturday that morning that more than 200 wildfires have ignited in Wisconsin so far this season, across more than 450 acres. More fires on Saturday added to the numbers, including one that burned one-tenth of an acre on Washburn County's southern edge and destroyed one structure (one was saved) plus one later in the day, a first that burned six acres in Baytield County (six structures were saved), one fire in Sawyer, Barron, and Rusk counties.

“Fire officials anticipate a slightly longer than average fire season because of how early the snow melted around the state,” the DNR said. “The earliest chance of minimal precipitation is expected Monday. In the meantime, continue to take extra precautions during this dry spell. Use extreme caution until the fire weather improves.”

Any sightings of wildfires should be reported immediately to 911. More information on fire conditions and burning restrictions is at dnr.wi.gov/topic/forestfire/restrictions.asp.

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