More than 300 wildfires have destroyed nearly 1,500 acres since the start of the year, and fire officials warn the season could be longer than average.
Governor Tony Evers of Wisconsin on Monday signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency in response to high forest fires, highlighting statewide efforts to control fires that have already burned nearly 1,500 acres this year.
The decree allows state agencies to assist with forest fire prevention, response, and recovery efforts.
It also allows support for the Wisconsin National Guard, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
“With almost the entire state experiencing a high or very high fire risk, protecting Wisconsinites from the destructive dangers of wildfires is a top priority,” Evers said in a press release.
Over the past week, there have been 149 wildfires in Wisconsin, according to a map on the department’s website, and there have been at least 340 fires since the start of the year.
Over the weekend, the majority of Wisconsin was at very high fire risk, including counties along the Illinois state border and counties along Lake Michigan. Wildfire conditions statewide will persist as long as there is a mixture of dry vegetation, unusually warm temperatures, low humidity and increasing winds, the department said.
Burning permits for debris piles, barrels and grass were suspended last week, and fire officials have advised residents to avoid all outdoor burning, including campfires, and properly extinguish cigarettes.
Although wildfires can occur at any time of the year, the ministry said, the majority of fires occur between March and May, making spring Wisconsin’s most critical fire season.
Due to how quickly the snow has melted in the state, fire officials are forecasting a longer-than-average fire season this year.
Wisconsin has seen its share of destructive forest fires in the past 20 years. In 2013, a team of loggers unintentionally started a fire that destroyed nearly 7,500 acres, including 23 residences, the department said. In 2005, a fire burned 3,410 acres and destroyed at least 30 homes.