Augusta weather station names Eau Claire County a "Very High" risk for fire

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AUGUSTA, Wisc. (WEAU) - As drought conditions worsen, the fire danger increases with each passing day. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said Eau Claire and several other counties are now at "Very High" risk for forest fires.

Delores Woodford of Augusta said the current drought is the driest she's seen and worries about possible forest fires.

"All they have to do is drop a cigarette on the road and you could have a fire," Woodford said.

The D.N.R. has the same concerns upgrading Eau Claire County and others to the south and east to a "Very High" risk of fire danger, banning all burning except for campfires and grills.

Augusta forester ranger Jed Kaurich measures precipitation levels, wind speed and direction, temperature, relative humidity and ground moisture levels daily to determine the local risk levels at the weather station just north of Augusta.

"Based on (those measurements), we determine staffing and the amount of equipment we need for the day and kind of what we can expect to see for the day if we get a fire going," Kaurich said.

"(Monday has been) extremely windy, so our fire risk and potential for fire escaping very quickly getting beyond the reach of our resources is very possible," he said.

"With the wind like this and you had a spark, it wouldn't take long to go a lot of ways," Woodford said.

"If we had a fire in a pine plantation ... That fire could be over 200 acres per hour, so it'd probably be beyond our resources and the fire department to contain the fire," Kaurich said.

With little to no rain in the forecast, Kaurich said it's important to know what the restrictions are before burning anything.

"The weather we have now is extremely dangerous, so if you are having that campfire, if you are burning something legally, just be extremely careful with it and have water and tools ready," he said. "I like the work that I do and i think it does make a difference throughout the community. Our number one goal is to prevent fires in the first place, so if we can do anything to prevent them, that's what the burning permit and fire permit system is all about."

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