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home : news : news June 28, 2016

5/15/2013 5:34:00 AM
UPDATE: Douglas County wildfire
90 percent contained - 17 local, state, federal fire crews, DNR wardens on site to battle massive wildfire in NW Wisconsin
Day after nearly 9,000 acre Germann Fire, wildfire risk again elevates with dry, windy conditions and red flag warnings
MADISON – A day after a wildfire consumed nearly 9,000 acres and 47 structures in Douglas County, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in conjunction with the National Weather Service, has announced that a Red Flag Warning is in effect today in Florence and Marinette counties and all DNR burning permits suspended statewide today.

A Red Flag Warning is issued when wind, temperature and humidity combine to produce conditions supporting extreme fire behavior, should a fire occur. Introducing any fire in the outdoors is strongly discouraged today. The DNR will be suspending all burning permits and citizens should check with local fire officials for any additional restrictions in place.

This alert means that large forest fires are possible due to the predicted weather conditions. Continued dry and windy weather in much of Wisconsin is pushing wildfire danger into the “very high” range in most of the state.

Hazardous conditions are expected to continue until there is a change in current weather patterns, say Department of Natural Resources fire control officials. Fire danger ratings are available on line at dnr.wi.gov keyword “fire.”

Under extreme conditions fires start easily from a match, hot coals, vehicle exhaust systems, or spark, burn fiercely and move into tree tops readily.
“We’re urging extreme caution in all outdoor activities,” said Trent Marty, director of DNR Bureau of Forest Protection.

“We request that no campfires be made, that persons refrain from smoking in woody or grassy areas and dispose of hot ashes or charcoal briquettes in a non-combustible container with a lid. We are also asking that people report any smoke they see in the air immediately by dialing 911.”

“We cannot afford another big fire today,” says Marty.

“We have several resources from outside the area assisting with suppression efforts in the north. Public compliance would be greatly appreciated in this time of increased fire risk.”

Here is the latest update provided by the Department of Natural Resources - press release issued at 8:45 a.m.:

GORDON, Wis. – Wildfire crews from the Department of Natural Resources, working through the night and joined by more than one hundred municipal firefighters, have largely surrounded the Germann Road Fire which has scorched 8,700 acres of forestland in Douglas and Bayfield counties.

No injuries were reported Wednesday morning as firefighters entered their second day battling the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years.

“With wind out of the northwest, our concern has been the southern and eastern flanks of the fire,” said DNR incident commander Larry Gladowski. “We should have control shortly. It was 90 percent contained at 7 a.m. Now with hot, dry and windy conditions forecast for today, we are asking people to be extremely careful so no more destructive fires are started.”

Residents were evacuated from the Loon Lake, Sand Lake, Murray Lake, Potowatomi Estates, Rock Lake, Beauregard Lake, Catherine Lake, Ellison Lake and the Village of Barnes.

The evacuation center is located at Drummond High School. Red Cross and state emergency management officials are making arrangements for the evacuees. As of 7 a.m., there were 59 evacuees registered at Drummond High School and 22 people occupied cots overnight.

Gladowski was meeting with evacuees at 8 a.m. He said people forced out of their homes by the fire would not be able to check their properties today. Red Cross and state emergency management officials are making arrangements for the evacuees.

Once the main blaze is contained it will take wildfire crews several days to suppress hot spots within the containment area.

The DNR reported 47 structures have been lost, including 17 homes, 15 garages, nine out buildings and six unknown. Firefighters have saved 77 structures, including 42 houses.

The cause of the fire, currently listed as unknown, is under investigation.

Overnight 19 fire departments assisted the DNR and the U.S. Forest Service on the massive fire. There are 52 fire trucks active.

The firefight will be joined today by two 415 water bombers from Ontario and two Blackhawk helicopters from the Wisconsin National Guard equipped with buckets for water drops. DNR pilots in spotter planes have been in the air since the fire began.

Gladowski expressed gratitude to the dozens of area firefighters and law enforcement professionals who worked in tight coordination with state and federal firefighting crews. Assistance has also come from Ontario, Minnesota and Michigan, partners with Wisconsin in the Great Lakes Forest Fire Compact along with Manitoba.

Law enforcement, in addition to DNR and State Patrol, includes the sheriff’s departments from Bayfield, Douglas, Ashland, Sawyer, Polk, Barron, Price and Washburn counties, and officers from Barnes, Solon Springs, Iron River and Lake Nebagam.

The last major forest fire in northern Wisconsin, called the Oak Lake Fire, occurred April 22, 1980 and consumed 11,418 acres of forest. The Cottonville Fire, in central Wisconsin, started May 5, 2005, burning 3,410 acres.

Firefighting continues into Wednesday

Press release from the DNR issued at 6:30 a.m.

By Joanne M. Haas
Bureau of Law Enforcement, Division of Forestry

Tuesday's high fire danger alert for nearly half of the state turned into a real emergency when a massive wildfire ignited in Douglas County, forcing the evacuations of several communities, the destruction of at least 50 structures while burning about 6,800 acres.

And that was before midnight.

As Wednesday arrived in the early morning hours, the biggest wildfire to hit the state since 2005 was still active while members of 17 local, state and federal fire crews and several DNR conservation wardens were set to work through the night to try to contain the fire fueled by pine and mixed hardwoods and protect the public's safety.

By 2:35 a.m. or so today, fire crews estimated they had about 80 to 85 percent of the fire contained. However, today's weather conditions may usher in similar fire danger conditions as yesterday.

The wildfire was first reported southwest of the Township of Barnes in Douglas County. In addition to fire fighters, the DNR conservation wardens went door-to-door in the area to alert cabin and homeowners of the fire danger and helped to quickly evacuate them to safe shelters and out of the area. About 40 evacuees were housed at the Drummond High School where the Red Cross and state emergency workers assisted them.

By early evening, more fire crews had assembled on site and the estimate grew to about 3,500 acres and several structures had already been burned. By midnight, the fire was estimated to have burned around 6,800 acres and about 50 structures while taking down power lines.

The cause of the wildfire is under investigation. No injuries have been reported.

The Douglas County wildfire, while still under way, is the largest fire to hit Wisconsin since 2005. That was the year of the Adams County Cottonville Fire that burned 3,410 acres and more than 300 buildings.

Tuesday's Douglas County wildfire is being fought with a lot of heavy equipment and more is on the way to fight the fire from the ground and air. Units included 7 DNR tractor plows, 2 heavy dozers, 2 air attack planes and 4 single engine air tankers. Two of those air tankers came from Wisconsin and two came from neighboring Minnesota. Four local fire departments and two U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service engines also helped with suppression efforts. Sixteen more DNR tractor plows were en route Tuesday night.

The fire was roughly six miles long and about a mile wide at the widest point last night while it burned in pine and mixed hardwoods. Fire crews were working through the night to control the fire.

DNR fire officials and the wardens remind everyone this is wildfire season in Wisconsin. To keep current on burning restrictions for your county, please visit this website:


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