Metro Wire Staff
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has placed Portage Co. and much of the surrounding area in a high-risk fire category, and it is asking the public to avoid all burning until further notice.
Thirty-five wildfires burned in Wisconsin over the last week, the department said, and elevated fire danger expected this weekend over most of the state.
Responding to a wildfire increases the risk of COVID-19 exposure through crowding of resources and geographic travel of emergency responders and firefighters, according to a Friday news release from the DNR.
Many DNR firefighters and fire departments are at home working or supporting loved ones. These challenges may reduce the availability of firefighters to operate fire suppression equipment and hinder emergency response time, resulting in rapid-fire growth. In addition, smoke from wildfires or debris burning worsens coronavirus risk, putting firefighters and the public in extra danger.
In DNR protection areas, burning permits for debris burning on the ground or in burn barrels are suspended until further notice. If the ground is completely snow-covered and will remain so for the duration of the burn, a DNR burn permit is not required. Therefore, you can burn at any time. After the snow melts, the burn permit suspensions will again be in effect.
Small campfires for warming or cooking purposes are allowed but discouraged at this time.
Information on changing fire danger in the coming weeks can be found at: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/restrictions.html