Summer fishing season brings with it increased forest fire potential
By Jared Raney
So far in 2015, Wisconsin has lost 1,872 acres to fire. There have been 41 fires in the local dispatch area, which includes Oneida and surrounding counties.
Right now the risk of forest fire is high, in fact, even burning permits have been cancelled as of print time.
With fishing season about to get underway, DNR forestry department says the danger is about to increase.
“The largest share of our forest fires in Wisconsin are human-caused,” said John Gillen, forester ranger with the DNR. “Non-intentional, but they’re human-caused, from a number of reasons.”
The danger when looking at fishing is small cooking or warming fires.
“With the fishing opener comes a lot of folks coming to our area,” Gillen said. “Because of the cool nights and the warm days, there can be quite a few fires that people have for enjoyment.”
“If they’re not monitored, if they’re not extinguished, if they’re not burning at a safe time of the day; the potential for more fires is certainly there, just because of our increased number of folks around the area,” Gillen said.
Causes of forest fires are plentiful—even sparks from a trailing safety chain while towing a boat have been known to cause a fire. With ideal fishing conditions often comes ideal conditions for fire-starting.
During this time of year, there is a lot of dead vegetation with very little new growth. As temperatures rise, the air will eventually get more humid and fresh vegetation will hold moisture into the ground. Canopy cover will provide shade for the vegetation below and with a flush ecosystem it will be more difficult for flames to take hold. Until then, temperatures can often be misleading.
“The temperature can really fool people, in that our humidity really drives a lot of our fire potential,” Gillen said.
“That’s what people often times forget, even local residents, is that even though the temperature is going to be a little bit lower, the low humidity and the wind speed make up for that temperature difference.”
High temperatures can make a difference, but the hottest part of the summer isn’t necessarily the most dangerous time.
“Every day that we have a drying without any moisture, we’re just inching up with more likelihood of just one little spark to ignite a forest fire,” Gillen said.
Fortunately, many of these fires are preventable. Monitoring is the most important key, as well as making sure the fire is out. And just because a fire looks like it’s out, doesn’t mean that it is. Coals can smolder for hours, even days with bigger fires, or equipment like outdoor boilers and woodstoves.
When camping or fishing, if you have a fire, be sure to keep suppression tools on hand like a water bucket and shovel. Small campfires and warming fires are only allowed during the day, and anything larger or after 6 p.m. requires a burning permit.
For more information about fire safety and allowances, go to dnr.wi.gov and search ‘fire,’ or call 1-888-WIS-BURN(947-2876)
Clear area of vegetation, alive and dead
Check for overhead fuels
Look for bare mineral soil and create a fire ring of rocks
Clear combustible materials from fire area
Keep fires as small as possible
Drown with water, dousing completely
Stir and turn materials, then douse again
Feel all charred materials like rocks or coals
Turn over large objects like rocks to make sure no embers or roots are burning
Don’t just bury coals, as they can smolder and break out into a wildfire
2015 fire statistics
1,872 acres burned
313 stuructures saved
26 structures burned
Woodruff dispatch area
39 acres burned