Wisconsin state Sen. Cory Tomczyk had a burn permit from the WI DNR, but lit his fire outside the allowable hours.
By Peter Cameron, THE BADGER PROJECT
State Sen. Cory Tomczyk, a Republican from Mosinee, received a ticket from a forest ranger from the Wisconsin Department of National Resources for illegal burning that led to a small brush fire, according to the citation report.
On the afternoon of Monday, May 15, the Mosinee Fire Department and the Department of Natural Resources were called to an outdoor fire on Beaver Road in Mosinee, according to the fire report. A DNR tractor plow was deployed to break up a large, smoldering debris pile. Firefighters eventually suppressed the blaze and traced the source to Tomczyk’s yard.
When contacted by the investigating forest ranger, Tomczyk, 60, admitted to burning a pile of branches and yard waste at about 2 p.m. the previous day, Sunday, May 14, according to the citation report. He also admitted to the ranger that his annual burning permit did not allow him to start burning until 6 p.m. that day.
Tomczyk told the ranger he noticed his fire spread to a compost pile. He said he monitored both fires until they burned down. Tomczyk said he thought his fires had burned out, so he left the site on Sunday, according to the fire report.
In an email to The Badger Project, Tomczyk wrote “After tending to the fire all day and checking it multiple times throughout the day, before I went to bed, and before I went to work the next morning – (the next day) a new fire ignited in my yard while I was at work despite my many efforts to put the fire completely out.”
The fire burned an area of about .07 acres. The total financial cost of suppressing the fire was more than $1,100, according to the fire report.
“It is my finding that Mr. Tomczyk did not fully extinguish his debris piles, which re-kindled later in the afternoon and caused a forest fire that spread to the woods nearby that required suppression action,” investigating Forest Ranger Nick Hovda wrote in the report.
Through a spokesman, Tomczyk told The Badger Project that the fire never left his property and only burned grass and weeds.
The ranger issued Tomczyk a fine for $175.30 for burning without a permit. He paid it on June 19, said Joanne Haas, a spokesperson for the state DNR.
“I am thankful for the Mosinee Fire Department and the DNR for responding and ensuring that the fire was contained,” Tomczyk wrote to The Badger Project. “Rightfully so, I was cited and paid the fine. Lesson learned.”
Tomczyk was first elected to the Wisconsin State Senate in 2022.
The Badger Project is a nonpartisan, citizen-supported journalism nonprofit in Wisconsin.