Winter Timber Sale

Downed wood from Wis. '19 storms pose fire risk, DNR warns

The summer 2019 storms damaged miles of forestland

MADISON, Wis. -- As remaining snow cover melts throughout Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resources warned land owners to exercise great caution in burning the masses of wood debris left behind after 2019’s destructive summer storms because of fire risk, particularly in Langlade and Oconto counties.

“We continue to see an abundance of fuel for fire from the 2019 storms that moved through northeast Wisconsin and left behind miles and miles of heavy downed trees and limbs,” said Craig Williams, DNR Forestry Area Leader. “The big concern is the number of large debris piles on the landscape, indicating that many property owners are intending to burn as a method of disposal.”

Wisconsin’s forests have high fire risk when vegetation dries out after snow melts and temperatures warm up.

Fire season begins right after the snow melts and vegetation quickly dries out with warmer temperatures, low humidity and gusty winds. The DNR said that it will suspend issuance of burn permits when fire risks increase.

The 2019 storms affected 250,000 acres throughout northern Wisconsin, with very wide impacts in Langlade and Oconto counties. Burning was cut short in early 2020 due to the Covid pandemic and the flood of inferior wood on the market made removal of the wood by sale uneconomic.

“With minimal snowpack over the winter, the DNR anticipates the potential for large-scale fires to occur in these heavy blowdown areas, until vegetation fully greens-up,” Williams said. “The hardest hit storm damage areas will have more fire restrictions in place, so people should diligently check the daily fire restrictions before burning.”

Landowners in Langlade and Oconto counties were asked to check on burn questions with local DNR Forester Jackson Beck by email at or by phone at 715-527-0012.

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