Burning questions about fire danger
If you're planning a controlled burn and want to know what the fire conditions are, call 1-888-WIS-BURN or 1-888-947-2876. Callers are then asked to enter two-digit county codes or the first three letters of the names of their counties.
Rock County's code is 54.
Other county codes include:
JANESVILLE Today would be a bad day to start a fire.
Campfire, brush fire or even the little fire you get when you give your Zippo a flick.
On Sunday, the National Weather Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a "Red Flag Warning" for almost all of Wisconsin.
"We don't have these conditions very often," said Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist for the DNR.
Those conditions include wind, low humidity and lack of moisture.
Fire danger across the central part of the state is "extreme," the highest rating the DNR issues. Fire danger from Columbia County south to the state line is "very high," the second-highest rating.
The DNR has suspended all burn permits—but only in the areas of the state where it is the regulating agency.
In a Sunday news release, Trent Marty, director of the DNR's Bureau of Forest Protection, asked people not to make campfires and to refrain from smoking in woody or grassy areas.
"At this time of year in these conditions, a fire can be started by simply parking a hot vehicle over dry grass," Marty said.
Despite those concerns, the Rock County Communications Center had received seven calls by 1 p.m. Sunday from residents reporting controlled burns, a center supervisor reported.
The communications center's responsibility is to log the callers' information and inform them whom—if anyone—they need to contact in their area of the county.
It is not the communication center's responsibility to advise for or against controlled burns.
In Rock County, the regulation of controlled burns varies from town to town.
-- In Fulton Township, a resident must inform the communications center and leave a message with the Edgerton Fire Department when the resident wants to have a controlled burn.
If both calls are not made and the fire department is dispatched to the burn, the resident is liable for the $500 fee.
-- In Turtle Township, residents are allowed to burn in April, October and November. At other times, they are required to contact Town of Turtle Fire Chief Tim Huffman.
He takes into account a variety of factors, including weather and even where people live.
"Some of the older people in the subdivision have asthma and stuff like that," Huffman said.
Longtime residents know their neighbors and take them into consideration.
In general, Huffman allows burns between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. If fire becomes a "nuisance," he calls and asks that it be put out.
The town of Turtle's ordinance mirrors the town of Beloit's, Huffman said.
-- In Harmony Township, no open burning is allowed "during a period when either the fire chief or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has issued a burning ban" for the area.
The town doesn't issue burning permits, explained John Bergman, town chairman.
Residents are asked to call the Milton Fire Department and communications center.
If both calls are not made and the fire department is dispatched to the burn, the resident is liable for the fire department's expenses.
Residents are also responsible for the costs of fire calls if controlled burns get out of hand, Bergman said.
Is the variety of rules a cause for concern?
"The difference is that we have a different topography," said Janesville Fire Department Shift Cmdr. Scott Morovits. "Up north, they have large forests. Many of them are untouched, really pristine."
In such conditions, the forest floor is coated with dried pine needles, twigs and the remnants of trees—all excellent fuel for a fire.
In addition, Morovits thinks that people who have controlled burns are "aware of the conditions," and, in most cases, can make common sense decisions about the risks.