By Shereen Siewert

State officials are urging extreme caution this weekend as gusty winds, low humidity and a lack of precipitation are creating a recipe for critical fire weather conditions throughout the state.

The threat of fire will continue into early next week with elevated fire danger statewide.

Residents should avoid outdoor burning including the use of campfires and off-road vehicles, and should also avoid disposing hot ahes from wood stoves in grassy or wooded areas, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Fire control officials are concerned that the cooler temperatures and slightly lesser winds will lead to complacency as Wisconsin enters the peak of wildfire season.  The main factor going into the weekend: low humidity levels coupled with tinder dry vegetation.

Fires under these circumstances can start easily and spread quickly, DNR officials said.

The greatest chance of precipitation will occur on Saturday evening, but will be confined to southern Wisconsin. Winds will be out of the north and northwest for the duration of this timeframe. Fuel conditions such as trees, shrubs and grasses are very dry. Please continue to take extra precautions as a dry stretch of weather remains.

The northern half of the state is entering a critical time for catastrophic fire, especially in sandy soil and pine areas. Fires in these locations are starting to see increased fire behavior, resulting in fire moving from the surface to the crowns of the trees, making fire suppression more challenging. The greening of vegetation is progressing in the southern part of the state which is lessening the fire risk.

Burning remains suspended with DNR-issued burning permits for debris piles, barrels and grass or wooded areas.

The DNR also requests the public again to be especially careful with any activities that could potentially lead to a wildland fire such as smoking, chainsaws, dragging trailer chains, off-road vehicles or other small engines have the potential to throw sparks. Use extreme caution until the fire weather improves.

The DNR will be on high alert across the entire state this weekend, pre-positioning equipment for rapid response. The DNR has four contract tanker planes and access to the Wisconsin Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters with bucket capability.

Continue to monitor the current situation here or by searching the DNR website using keyword “fire.”