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Unusual temps, winds delay spring burns at wildlife preserve in Mequon

Unusually high temperatures and strong winds have led to wildfires raging across parts of Wisconsin.
Posted at 10:09 PM, Apr 13, 2023

MEQUON, Wis. — Unusually high temperatures and strong winds have led to wildfires raging across parts of Wisconsin. It's those same conditions delaying people from setting needed fires.

The Mequon Nature Preserve, for one, is pushing back its spring-prescribed burn because the dry conditions are simply unsafe.

"I think you always have to be cautious. Things can get out of control very easily," said Cory Gritzmacher, Ecological and Restoration Operations Director at the preserve.

On Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures were around 80 degrees Fahrenheit with winds gusting up to 25 mph at times. Gritzmacher said optimally, temps should be at least 20 degrees cooler and winds around 5 to 15 mph.

"The sustained high winds. It really makes it difficult to keep a burn under control," said Gritzmacher.

Every three to five years, he said, the staff at the preserve conduct a prescribed — and highly controlled — burn on their prairie.

"It's really dependent on, kind of, rejuvenating some species. It brings nutrients back into the soil and really provides a healthy prairie. It helps manage invasive species, too," said Gritzmacher.

By delaying a week or two, he said, they run the risk of missing their spring window. They have to finish a burn before migratory birds, now just returning, begin to nest.

If they do miss the spring, they could push the burn to the fall or even the winter depending on snowfall. Overall, safety is the priority.

"Things can get out of control very quickly when you’re dealing with fire if it’s not planned. So, even if you think it’s a small little brush fire, a small little pile of brush in your backyard, you’d be amazed how quickly that can spread and get out of control and really have an effect on your neighborhood," said Gritzmacher.

He said if you're unsure what you're doing — whether it's getting rid of brush or a prescribed burn — you can always contact a professional.

"Even just contacting your local fire department is a great way to see if they would be interested in helping you with a prescribed fire in an area so everyone is safe in doing that," he said.

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