Despite one of the worst droughts in the last two decades, Wisconsin has actually seen less fire damage this year than other years.
Fire officials say this is due to heavy burn restrictions.
In a normal year, the Department of Natural Resources says 4,000 acres are burned on average by fire across our state. But this year, only about half that so far, and the year is not over yet.
"Right now we are below the state average," DNR Forest Ranger Brian Luebke said.
So far this year, the DNR reports more than 1,900 acres have burned in Wisconsin. But that's lower than usual. Typically, Wisconsin sees 4,000 acres burned each year.
DNR officials say heavy burn restrictions have helped keep the number of fires down in the middle of a serious drought. But 2012 isn't over yet.
"If the weather conditions stay dry, we're expecting more fires to be occurring," Luebke said.
As for our area, we're also below average, but not by much. In fact, most of the state's fires have been in central Wisconsin—in Adams, Marathon, Portage and Wood counties.
One of the worst grass fires in Wood County was in Rudolph, burning more than 100 acres. Firefighters had to put out "hot spots" for 15 days.
Another large fire was in Portage County, where more than 30 acres burned.
Even though burn restrictions have helped reduce the number of fires, the drought has still taken a toll.
"It's a long term process to recover from," Luebke said.
Fire officials hope conditions will improve, so there aren't any more fires. But they know anything can happen.
"Now you start to get your vegetation dying, leaves are falling—if we don't get rain it's going to get a lot worse," Rudolph Fire Chief Tony Konkol said.
Officials say rain is the key. They say we need a considerable amount to get out of this drought.
More snow, freezing rain, sleet, and wind on the way.
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