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Storm Damage to Forests

Wildfire Concerns

The threat of wildfire is very real in Wisconsin. Many acres of dead and dying trees, brush and other vegetation make this threat even greater. While you work to remove the storm-damaged debris on your property, take time to guard against the possibility of starting a wildfire and minimizing the damage that a wildfire could do to your property should one move through the area.

Landowners should keep several things in mind when protecting their property from the threat of wildfire.

  • 98% of all wildfires in Wisconsin are caused by people. Take care to keep from starting a fire when doing things such as disposing of ash from wood stoves, burning brush piles and working with equipment outdoors.
  • Firefighters cannot help save your home if they cannot reach it. Your driveway needs to be wide enough and have enough vertical clearance to accommodate emergency vehicles.
  • Minimizing flammable vegetation close to buildings and maintaining the area 100 to 200 feet around your home can lower the intensity of an approaching wildfire. For more information, read the Firewise Landscaping Guide [PDF].
  • Conduct your own home ignition zone assessment [PDF] to find out where the trouble spots might be on your property.

Brush disposal

Many townships and villages have established sites for collection of storm debris (check with your local township or county emergency government office for more information). Check with your town clerk for updated information. Contact information for most townships is available on county websites.

Don't move firewood

Firewood easily transports harmful pests and other problems for yard trees and forests. Firewood that looks clean may actually be hiding insects like emerald ash borer or gypsy moth, or the tiny spores of a tree-killing fungus like oak wilt. To learn more, read the DNR's firewood information.


Individuals wishing to burn legal materials (e.g., leaves, brush and pine needles) may need to obtain an annual written permit and then call or check online on the day of the burn for the daily burn restrictions. These no-cost permits (if needed) can be obtained at local ranger stations, emergency fire wardens, online or by simply calling 1-888-WIS-BURN (947-2876). For more information on burning permit laws and regulations, review the DNR's burning permit information.

There is a very real likelihood that burning permits will be suspended during spring fire season. Emergency burning restrictions may also be in effect at some point.

Liability for wildfires

Regardless of emergency burning restrictions, any individual who sets fires on any land at any time and allows it to become a forest fire shall be liable for all expenses incurred in the suppression of the fire by the state or town in which the fire occurred.

Any person whose property is injured or destroyed by fires may recover in a civil action the value of timber or any other damages suffered from persons causing such fires.