Memorial Day weekend fire safety, DNR urges campers to stay alert

Whether in the woods or your backyard, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wants to make sure everyone enjoys Memorial Day weekend without sparking a wildfire.

The Vitse family knows how to host a bonfire. At Pike Lake, they had s'mores and a crowd – but did so safely with their fire in a pit and a nearby water source. 

"We pretty much have a fire going every night, usually get most of the group around one camp sight," said Nick Vitse.

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Vitse and his family spend every Memorial Day weekend camping near Kettle Moraine State Forest. They said, at the end of they night, they'll douse the fire with water and won't go inside until it's completely out.

Joe Ferrari said there's no camping without a bonfire: "You have got to have them, have to have them."

Marc Sass with the Wisconsin DNR said the state's residents start 98% of its forest fires.

"We are just making sure that the fun doesn’t turn into a forest fire and could cause some trouble," he said. "Within a couple of minutes, that fire can be put in the woods."

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With a lack of rain, Sass said the fire danger warning is moderate and high across parts of Wisconsin. Kettle Moraine State Forest's fire danger is low, but he urges campers to be on alert.

"Just make sure you have the tools and equipment available to maintain a fire," he said.

Campground at Pike Lake, Hartford

"This camper comes with a hose right next to where we usually grill, so we have everything if something happened," said Ferrari.

Sass said they do have some help from Mother Nature to prevent wildfires: "The vegetation, the fuel on the ground, is helping us with this point with how green it is."

The Wisconsin DNR said they have more staff on standby for the moderate fire danger areas in southeast Wisconsin.