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Fire danger high in UP, Wisconsin

It’s the “tween” time of year outdoors, when not enough new growth has emerged to keep last year’s now tinder-dry grasses and brush from letting fire race through if a spark gets lit.

Both Michigan and Wisconsin officials in the past week have warned about the high risk of wildfires right now.

“Conditions are such that fires could build quickly,” said Paul Rogers, fire prevention specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division. “Especially in spring, grass can be dry enough to catch fire even if it looks green.”

While rain this week may help, it likely won’t eliminate the danger, they said.

To reduce the possibility of fire, residents can:

— Wait to burn yard debris and do not start a fire before checking conditions at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit.

— Be careful when using all-terrain vehicles, lawn mowers or other outdoor machinery. In dry conditions, even heat from a lawn mower or the exhaust pipe of an ATV can ignite dry grass. A trailer chain dragging on pavement can create sparks that ignite grass.

— Never leave any fire unattended, even for a moment. Make sure all debris and campfires are extinguished before leaving the area.

— Learn more about specific fire danger by region or find fire prevention tips.

Burn permits are required statewide in Michigan. For the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas, permission to burn online can be obtained at Michigan.gov/BurnPermit. Elsewhere, contact local municipality or fire department.

In Wisconsin, elevated fire conditions continue especially in northern Wisconsin, where the fire danger is high to very high due to low relative humidity and slower progression of green-up. Florence and Marinette counties were in the very high category Tuesday.

Fires under these circumstances can start easily and spread quickly. Fire officials now anticipate a slightly longer than average fire season.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources responded to 16 fires this past weekend, all of which were contained due to rapid fire suppression efforts. The leading causes of these fires were equipment, debris burning and improper ash disposal.

One was a 4-acre fire in Burnett County resulting from woodstove embers being tossed into the woods.

To help keep Wisconsinites safe, the DNR continues to request the public avoid outdoor burning by limiting the use of campfires and off-road vehicles and avoid disposing hot ashes from woodstoves in the grass or wooded areas while trees, shrubs and grasses remain dry.

Burning in Wisconsin remains suspended with DNR-issued burning permits for debris piles, barrels and grass or wooded areas. The DNR also asks the public be especially careful with any activities that could potentially lead to a wildland fire — such as smoking, using chainsaws, dragging trailer chains, riding off-road vehicles or other small engines that have the potential to throw sparks — until the fire weather improves.

The DNR remains on high alert across Wisconsin. To report fires early, dial 911 immediately. To see fire risks in Wisconsin, go to https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/forestfire/restrictions.html.

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