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Crew gets permission to hold controlled burn amidst burn ban

Company, monastery get special permission to scorch 100 acres of prairie land

MIDDLETON, Wis. - With a red flag warning across a majority of the state, the DNR banned burning in the counties where the wind and dry conditions could create the most danger for wildfires.

So smoke above the Holy Wisdom Monastery might have been a surprise for those who thought setting fire to anything was not allowed.

"We've gotten pretty good at getting this done in a safe way," Jim Elleson said.

Elleson leads the prescribed burns for Quercus Land Stewardship Services and said what made Wednesday such a dangerous day for most to burn in their backyards helped him get the job done.

"The wind is actually helping us because we've got a good consistent wind that pretty much directs where the fire is going to go, and that helps us in controlling it," Elleson said.

In order to strategically scorch the 100 acres of prairie land at the monastery, Elleson had multiple ATVs filled with water roaming the property and about a dozen trained employees managing the burn.

"There are some burn units that just need the dry conditions in order to get the burn in order to maintain the ecosystem," Elleson said.

Greg Armstrong is the land manager for Holy Wisdom, and he said he never hesitated putting the grounds up in flames Wednesday even with the dangerously dry conditions.

"This is the most important day for land management at the monastery all year long," Armstrong said.

In addition, Armstrong and Elleson got special permission from the Middleton Fire Department to conduct the burn as scheduled.

Nevertheless, DNR Wildfire Prevention Specialist Catherine Koele doesn't suggest people without the proper tools or experience follow suit in these less-than-optimal conditions.

"Know the conditions and the restrictions before doing any burning, and right now, it's just not a good time," Koele said.

Holy Wisdom Monastery plans to regrow the land into prairie and savanna, Armstrong said.

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