The National Weather Service has put out a notice that the abnormally warm, sunny weather has a dark side: It makes fires more likely in the blowdown area of far northern Wisconsin.
Burnett County Emergency Management Director Rhonda Reynolds said the usual brown-up that autumn brings adds to the problem. “A lot of the understory is starting to die as a natural progression as we move into fall. So, things are starting to get a little crispy in the woods,” Reynolds said.
Then add low humidity, a gusty wind out of the south, and National Weather Service Meteorologist Greg Frosig said you have the recipe for unusually tinder conditions. “The only reason that it’s really this unusual is that it’s been so dry. We were looking earlier this morning, and it looks like northern Wisconsin and northeastern and eastern Minnesota have only picked up a quarter of an inch of rain over the last three weeks,” Frosig said.
Department of Natural Resources Forestry Team Leader Bob Hartshorn said the DNR has just begun a fire ban with the exception of campfires in Douglas, Burnett and Washburn counties. He is “not crazy about campfires either,” he said, especially in the blowdown areas from last summer’s 100 mph storm.
More than 250,000 trees blew down in a storm on July 1, 2011, in far northern Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. Hartshorn said, “We’ve got to be realistic. There are still areas that aren’t salvaged and probably never will be salvaged. So when we get into these very long periods of dry weather, those bigger diameter logs, sticks, and everything that are in those blowdown areas, it just makes it more difficult and raises potential for a serious fire.”
Meanwhile, Frosig said the 30-day forecast is for warmer and possibly drier conditions.