More than 300 forest fires have destroyed nearly 1,500 acres since the start of the year, and fire officials warn that this could be a season that is longer than average.
Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin on Monday signed a declaration declaring a state of emergency in response to elevated forest fire conditions and underlining the state’s overall efforts to control fires that have already burned nearly 1,500 acres this year.
The executive order allows government agencies to assist with prevention, response, and recovery efforts.
It also allows support from the Wisconsin National Guard, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
“As almost the entire state experiences a high or very high fire risk, the highest priority is to protect Wisconsinites from the destructive dangers of fires,” Evers said in a press release.
In the past week, there have been 149 forest fires across Wisconsin, according to a map on the department’s Web site, and there have been at least 340 fires since the beginning of the year.
Over the weekend, most of Wisconsin was at a very high risk of fire, including counties along the Illinois state border and counties along Lake Michigan. Wildfire conditions across the state will continue as long as there is a mix of dry vegetation, unusually warm temperatures, low humidity and rising winds, the department said.
Burning permits for piles of dirt, barrels and grass were suspended last week, and fire authorities advised residents to avoid any burning, including campfires, and to extinguish cigarettes properly.
While forest fires can occur at any time of the year, the department said the majority of fires occur between March and May, making spring the most critical fire season in Wisconsin.
Because of how early the snow melted around the state, fire officials expect a fire season that is longer than average this year.
Wisconsin has seen its share of destructive forest fires for the past 20 years. In 2013, a logging accidentally started a fire that destroyed nearly 7,500 acres, including 23 homes, the department said. In 2005, a fire burned 3,410 acres and destroyed at least 30 homes.