Wildfires burn near St. Croix headwaters, danger remains elevated

Two major fires on Tuesday burned more than 200 acres total, and authorities recommend taking precautions.

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Smith Bridge Road Fire, April 13, 2024. (Wisconsin DNR)

It’s been a busy week for wildfires, particularly in northwestern Wisconsin. The Department of Natural Resources reported 35 fires burned 300 acres on April 13 alone. That included the largest fire in the state so far this year, the Smith Bridge Road Fire, near the village of Minong. Another sizable fire burned 20 acres a short distance north. Both were judged by the DNR to pose a high risk of spreading, and were met with intense firefighting efforts.

At 3 p.m., a fire was reported in the town of Wascott. Dubbed the Apple Fire, it would ultimately burn about 21 acres of pine plantation, moving in a northeasterly direction.

Fifteen minutes after the Apple Fire was reported came calls about what would be the larger blaze, the Smith Bridge Road Fire. It was reported at 3:15 p.m.

“The fire burned in the crowns of the trees and in slash on the ground and moved in a northeasterly direction,” the DNR said. “Several spot fires occurred but were subsequently suppressed.”

More than 10 engines, eight tractor plows, one heavy dozer, two patrol planes and two Minnesota aircraft with water scooping capability worked the Smith Bridge Road Fire. Twelve local fire departments, law enforcement officials and emergency management also helped.

In the end, two primary trailer homes and five secondary structures were destroyed by the blaze. Firefighting efforts were successful in saving 10 primary structures and 23 secondary structures.

The DNR is also warning that the fire risk will be high again this weekend, and likely for several more weeks.

“Warm temperatures, low humidity and breezy conditions are in the forecast for this weekend,” the agency said. “Although recent rain has improved conditions in some areas, much of the state’s vegetation is still dead and dry.”

The agency says that most recent wildfires have been caused by debris burning and powerlines.

Fire safety tips:

  • Report fires early by calling 911.
  • Avoid outdoor burning until conditions improve. Burn permits for debris burning may be suspended in several counties.
  • Operate equipment (chainsaws, off-road vehicles, lawnmowers, etc.) early in the morning or late in the day to avoid sparks at peak burn hours.
  • Secure dragging trailer chains to avoid creating sparks.
  • Do not try to suppress a fire by yourself.
  • Never operate drones/unmanned aircraft over or near fires – it endangers the lives of pilots and firefighters and interferes with fire suppression operations.

Check current fire danger, wildfire reports and burning restrictions on the DNR’s website.

For a more comprehensive view of current fire activity, visit the DNR’s wildfire dashboard.


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One response to “Wildfires burn near St. Croix headwaters, danger remains elevated”

  1. Mark Hove Avatar
    Mark Hove

    Interesting. Helpful fire safety tips!

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Wildfires burn near St. Croix headwaters, danger remains elevated