The warm weather this week has set record high temperatures in the area.
It sure feels great, but the lack of snow brings about new dangers - wildfires.
Wildfire season has returned to areas where winter snow has melted.
A recent handful of warm, windy days has contributed to wildfires in southern and central portions of Michigan. Additionally, those warm, windy days have contributed to 70 wildfires burning 100 acres in southern and central portions of Wisconsin.
It won't be long before there are wildfires reported in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin.
Michigan and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials urge residents and visitors to use extreme caution before engaging in outdoor activities with the potential for wildfire.
"Several winter storms have created a tremendous clean-up task in many areas," said Bill O'Neill, Michigan DNR's acting Forest Resources Division chief and state forester. "We are urging people to consider fire-safe alternatives, such as chipping instead of burning the debris. Chipping eliminates the risk of wildfire altogether and it reduces exposure to unhealthy smoke. An added bonus, the wood chips can be used as mulch for landscaping around your home."
Due to the snow-free conditions, burning permits are now required in Wisconsin DNR Protection areas.
Burning permits are free and are available from local Emergency Fire Wardens, over the phone 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876).
With a permit in hand it is still necessary to call the toll-free 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876) or visit the Wisconsin DNR website and enter the keyword "fire" each day you intend to burn to learn of any restrictions on open burning in place for your location on that day.
The webpage and the phone messages are updated daily at 11 a.m.
"We've been seeing a trend right now, people are getting their required annual burning permit, but failing to call or check online for the daily burn restrictions," says Catherine Koele, Wisconsin DNR wildfire prevention specialist. "Checking conditions daily is an important step in the DNR's new automated burning permit system. Daytime burns when higher temperatures, lower humidity and stronger winds increase the risk of an escaped forest fire. Burning outside the permit requirements can result in a citation for illegal burning."
Burn permits are required anytime the ground is not snow-covered in Michigan.
In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, residents can obtain a free burn permit online at www.michigan.gov/burnpermit.
Persons may also call toll-free at 866-922-2876.
For those who do expect to burn yard waste, Michigan DNR officials ask that you plan carefully and follow the following fire-safe tips:
- Check first with local fire official to be certain burning is not prohibited where you live.
- Choose a day that is cool and damp to conduct your burn. The likelihood an ember will escape from a burn pile and ignite a wildfire drastically increases on warm, windy days.
- Arrange small mounds of debris in spots cleared of flammable vegetation or adjacent to any remaining snow, which will further reduce the chances of a wildfire igniting.
The Wisconsin DNR also recommends fire-safe alternatives, such as hauling debris to a designated disposal site or chipping instead of burning. Other ideas such as composting, recycling, or leaving the debris in the woods for wildlife habitat to enjoy eliminates the risk of wildfire altogether and it reduces exposure to unhealthy smoke.
"Springtime is Michigan's busiest time of year for wildfires. With a little planning and careful attention to outdoor surroundings, residents can play a huge role in helping us reduce the number of wildfires," said O'Neill. "It's all about keeping our people, property and natural resources safe from fire's devastating effects."
Watch for wildfires this spring season.