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Dry, hot conditions could fuel weekend wildfires, but have aided in some farmers’ planting schedules

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JANESVILLE (WKOW) -- It's dry outside, and this weekend it will be warm and windy -- perfect conditions for wildfires.

The DNR says the conditions will be "critical," but for some, the dry conditions have actually been a big help -- though that help could start to hurt if rain doesn't come soon.

The DNR says 98 percent of wildfires are caused by people.

"The only other cause is going to be lightning," said Wisconsin DNR Wildfire Specialist Catherine Koele. "(Saturday), with those gusty winds, we're anticipating that fire activity could definitely pick up."

A nice weekend can turn not so nice quickly if fires get out of control. Koele says to avoid bonfires, keep campfires small and be careful on opening fishing weekend.

"Even something as simple as dragging your chains from a boat trailer along the side of a road in dry ground can cause a fire," she said.

These dry conditions are proving helpful, though, in an unexpected place.

"That's the thing about farming," said Doug Rebout. "Every year is different. Every day is different on the farm."

Rebout is on the board of directors for both the Wisconsin Corn Growers Association and DATCP, and he also runs his family's farm on the outskirts of Janesville.

He says they finished planting Friday -- 3500 acres in just eight days, the fastest they've ever done.

Rebout says that speed was thanks to some new equipment, but also how dry the ground is.

"Every year, every farmer has those wet spots that they have troubles getting into," he said. "Whereas this year, we were able to go through everything and get everything planted."

Rebout says that help from Mother Nature will start to hurt if rain doesn't return soon.

"The problem is, if there's enough moisture to make that plant germinate, that seed germinate, and then it starts coming up and you get that continued drought, that seed will just die in the ground and not come up," he said. "And then we'll have to come back in at a later date and replant everything."

For Rebout, the dry conditions aren't a crisis yet -- just something to keep an eye on.

"Rain now would be great for us to help all that seed get started," he said.

Off the farm, however, the need for rain is more urgent to fight wildfires.

"We need some rain," Koele said. "A good, soaking rain."

Koele says people who start or see a wildfire should dial 911 immediately.

There are 5 air tankers in the state of Wisconsin, as well as two Blackhawk helicopters from the Army National Guard on standby to help fight wildfires this weekend.

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Andrew Merica

Reporter/Producer, 27 News

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