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THE LATEST: DNR identifies owner of land where Germann Road Fire originated

By: Kevin Hurd and AP Email
By: Kevin Hurd and AP Email
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MADISON – The Department of Natural Resources is issuing an Air Quality Special Notice with regards to the large forest fire that occurred in eastern Douglas County and western Bayfield County yesterday. 

According to state fire officials, the "Germann Road Fire" is approximately 8,700 acres in size and has destroyed 47 buildings. However, thanks to the hard work of many DNR and local fire control personnel, as of today the fire is 90 percent contained. Fortunately, no injuries have been reported from the fire. 

There are no air monitoring sites near the fire. Consequently, there are no air quality data available with which to gauge the health impacts of the fire. Furthermore, an air quality advisory has not been issued due to the lack of air quality data.

Nevertheless, local residents are advised to be aware of the possibility of air quality problems downwind of the fire. Individuals should monitor their symptoms and consult a physician if they have concerns. In healthy people, symptoms of smoke exposure usually include irritation of eyes, nose and throat, or breathing discomfort.  More severe symptoms may include chest tightness, wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing. Smoke exposure can aggravate chronic lung or cardiovascular disease.

The DNR will issue updates to this Air Quality Special Notice as changes to the fire status warrant.

 

TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (DNR NEWS RELEASE)--Department of Natural Resources law enforcement officials have identified the owner of the land where the Germann Road Fire originated as well as the logging operation responsible for unintentionally igniting the fire.

On Tuesday, May 14, at approximately 2:30 p.m., a nearly 8,000 acre wildfire devastated the Townships of Gordon and Highland in Douglas County. Forty-seven structures were lost; 17 of those were homes. The fire was declared 100 percent contained as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 15. The fire burned a swath more than 9 miles long and a mile and a half wide.

DNR law enforcement officials have confirmed that the fire was caused by equipment associated with logging operations. A logging crew, running a Timberjack 840 feller/buncher, was harvesting timber on industrial timber lands owned by Lyme St. Croix Forest Company LLC, these lands are managed by Steigerwaldt Land Services, Inc.
An operator from Ray Duerr Logging, LLC was conducting routine timber harvesting operations and noticed smoke coming from below the cutting head of the machine.

According to the fire investigation, “the fire started underneath the head of the cutting device.” says Gary Bibow, Fire Law Enforcement Specialist. “We were able to rule out all the other possible fire causes based on the evidence we found. And, there was no indication of the saw coming in contact with a rock or that the equipment appeared to be faulty.”

The area surrounding the source of ignition indicates the fire progressed quickly after the fire started. “Fine grasses, abundant woody debris coupled with dense jack pine with low hanging branches caused the fire to start out as a surface fire and quickly move to the tree tops. It was only a matter of minutes before it hit the crowns, and it was off and running,” says Bibow.

The responsible party made a concerted effort to extinguish the fire using a fire extinguisher located in the cab of the harvester and immediately called 911. Bibow adds, “The entire logging crew stayed on scene. They have been extremely cooperative throughout this entire process.”

A thorough investigation has demonstrated that no negligence was involved and there was no intentional setting of fire to the land. The department recommends not pursuing criminal charges based on the investigation.

The origin of the fire is just southwest of the intersection of Germann Road and Doetsch Lane in the Township of Gordon. Due to southwest winds, the fire progressed in a northeasterly direction. At around 8 p.m. the night of the fire, the winds shifted from the north, pushing the fire towards several lakes where several evacuations took place and the majority of the structures were lost.

DNR fire control officials flew over the fire yesterday with infrared photographic technology to determine where any remaining hot spots are located. Fire crews will continue to suppress the hot spots and monitor the fire perimeter over the coming days. Scattered rainfall expected over the weekend will greatly assist in the mop-op operations.

For continued updates related to the Germann Road Fire, visit the DNR website CLICK HERE enter keyword “Germann Road Fire.” For the most current fire danger and any burning permit restrictions, enter keyword, “fire.”
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TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (DNR NEWS RELEASE)--The Department of Natural Resources has declared the Douglas County wildfire 100 percent contained with burned acreage adjusted to 8,131 acres, thanks to the increased access to the fire area and more detailed mapping. Work remains ongoing to control the hot spots burning inside the contained area.

DNR law enforcement, working with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, also today reported the wildfire (also called the Germann Road fire) was caused by equipment associated with logging operations.

Officials say a thorough investigation has demonstrated that no negligence was involved and there was no intentional setting of the fire to the land. The DNR, after consultation with the Douglas County District Attorney, is recommending no criminal charges be filed.

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TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (DNR NEWS RELEASE) – The Department of Natural Resources has declared the Germann Road Fire 100 percent contained as of 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 15 with acreage adjusted to 8,131 acres burned due to more detailed mapping of the fire.

DNR law enforcement, working with the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office, reports that the fire was caused by equipment associated with logging operations.

“While we do have the fire completely contained, we still have a lot of work ahead of us,” says Trent Mary, director of DNR Bureau of Forest Protection. “To be clear, the fire is not 100 percent under control. We do have a line around the fire and we’ve been successful in being able to keep it within the perimeter containment lines. There are still a number of hot spots within the fire perimeter that we are concerned with and are continuing to suppress.”

The cause of the fire has now been confirmed by law enforcement officials that the fire started from a logging crew harvesting timber on industrial timber lands. The operator of the logging equipment noticed smoke coming from below the cutting head of the machine while harvesting timber.

“The operator got out of the machine and made a concerted effort to extinguish the fire using a fire extinguisher located in the cab of the harvester,” says Gary Bibow, Fire Law Enforcement Specialist.

“Another operator on the crew immediately called 911 and DNR resources were on scene in less than 10 minutes.”

A thorough investigation has demonstrated that no negligence was involved and there was no intentional setting of fire to the land. The Department in consultation with the Douglas County District Attorney has recommended that no criminal charges be filed.

Officials also lifted the evacuation order and allowed the public to return to their residences. All public roads are now open and power has been restored to the area. Property owners in the area are encouraged call 1-715-376-4185 to find out the status of their homes and property. The hotline will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. The number of damaged or destroyed structures has not changed with 77 structures saved and 47 lost including 17 residences. There are no reported injuries.

Cooler temperatures, lighter winds and precipitation expected over the weekend. DNR fire control officials note that this will greatly assist in the mop-up operations and keep the hot spots under control in the coming days.

Gov. Scott Walker and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp are expected to arrive at the command post at the Gordon Town Hall today and are planning to take a tour of the fire area and visit with locals devastated by the incident. The governor has issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency in response to the forest fire.

All DNR burning permits continue to be suspended today and the public is encouraged to check with local fire officials for any additional restrictions that may be in place. Winds are expected to be lighter today, however the warmer temperatures and relative humidity continue to push the fire danger into the high and very high category.
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DNR Update: Officials have reduced the fire's acreage to 8,131. As access improves and with better mapping, acreage changes are to be expected. Also, officials have lifted the evacuation order. The public is allowed to return to their residences.
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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Authorities say logging operations started a massive wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin that destroyed more than a dozen homes.

The state Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday that law enforcement officials confirmed logging equipment started the fire.

The fire began Tuesday afternoon. It destroyed 17 homes and forced dozens of people to evacuate as the blaze burned across 9,000 acres. But no injuries have been reported.

The blaze began Tuesday afternoon near Simms Lake in Douglas County, 40 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn. Authorities say firefighters had the fire contained by late Wednesday evening.

The DNR made the announcement on its official Twitter feed. An agency spokesman declined immediate comment.
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TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (AP) -- Firefighters battling a 9,000-acre in northwestern Wisconsin have contained the massive blaze.

Department of Natural Resources spokesman Robert Manwell said Thursday the fire in Douglas and Bayfield counties is 100 percent contained. Manwell says fire crews will be handling small brush fires and reworking the lines that contain the wildfire.

Authorities opened all roads in the area overnight and some residents headed back to their homes. The fire, which began Tuesday, destroyed 17 homes and 30 other structures. The DNR says no one has been hurt in the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years.

Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency in Douglas and Bayfield counties, which makes the Wisconsin National Guard available for recovery efforts. The governor plans to tour the area Thursday.
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UPDATE: During our live interview on WEAU 13 News at 10, the incident commander in Gordon told Kevin Hurd the wildfire had been 100% contained as of 9 p.m. Wednesday.
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GORDON, Wis. (WEAU) -- It is like stepping into a completely different world. The sights, sounds, even the smells.

On our drive into a portion of Douglas County, badly burned by the fire, trees lay littered on the ground and blackened by the blaze. In some cases, the smoke and even flames were still fizzling.

"It's pretty bad," said Brett Stansky.

His home was caught in the middle of it all but luckily it is still standing. He remembers the moments leading up to the fire reaching his neighborhood.

"Probably about a mile or two you could see the smoke coming really bad," he said. "They evacuated us about an hour or so before the fire came through at least."

The DNR says a home like his was well prepared for the fire. It had a long driveway for firefighters to park, few trees in the immediate yard, and a steel roof. He knows others are not as lucky.

"I sat and watched the fire, it looked like everything was gone," he said. "You could hear pops going off and you know other peoples fuel tanks up to it."

The main impact has been seasonal homes and cabins.

"It got into an area where there are more seasonal homes by the lakes," said Neal Kephart with the Wisconsin DNR.

On Tuesday night, Kephart says 79 people were at the rescue shelter, half spent the night.

But for what he says is a record fire in the northern part of the state for the past 30 years, there is one other record to be proud of.

"And that's shown in the fact that no one has gotten injured in this fire and for a fire this size that's a great record," he said.

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DNR Wednesday Evening Update:

GORDON, Wis – The huge wildfire that raced across Douglas and parts of Bayfield counties May 14 and 15 is roughly 95 percent contained as of 6 p.m. May 15. Crews will continue to work through the night to complete fire lines and address hotspots. Fixed wing air tankers, called in from Ontario, worked through the day in coordination with ground crews and were released back to their bases late this afternoon. Two National Guard helicopters equipped with buckets remained in the area.

The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation. DNR law enforcement specialists are actively investigating the fire cause.
An information line 715-376-4185 has been set up for evacuees at the fire command center where they can get up to date information on damage to structures. The information line will be staffed until 10:30 p.m. May 15, and reopened at 8 a.m. on May 16.
All roads in the area have been cleared of debris however officials stress that persons entering the area will continue to see flames lingering in stumps, fallen trees and brush piles. This will be especially noticeable after sunset. It is possible that additional debris will appear on roads over nighttime hours. Any travelers are advised to drive slowly and be alert. Firefighting equipment and firefighters will also be on area roads, fields and forests throughout the night.
Officials stress that waiting until daylight hours to enter the area is the safer choice.

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DNR Update: Fire control officials say Douglas Co. wildfire is about 90 to 95 percent contained. Small breakout around Beauregard Lake. The fire has consumed 9,030 acres and destroyed several dozen structures. No injuries have yet been reported as firefighters enter a second day battling the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years. The cause of the fire, currently listed as unknown, is under investigation.
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FROM WI DNR: GORDON, Wis. – The Department of Natural Resources has established a hotline which residents potentially impacted by the Germann Road Fire in Douglas County can call to learn about the status of their homes and property. The phone number, 715-376-4185, will connect residents directly to Incident Command where staff are prepared to help update them regarding the status of buildings on their property.

Residents wishing to visit their property will need to be escorted. Arrangements for such site visits to retrieve pets and supplies can be arranged by calling the hotline.

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To see the Department of Natural Resources map of the Germann Road Fire, click here.

TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (AP) -- A wildfire that has burned more than 8,700 acres in northwestern Wisconsin started in area where workers were doing logging operations.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources spokesman Ed Culhane says officials are investigating whether a spark from a piece of logging equipment started the fire around 2:30 p.m. in Douglas County.

Firefighters worked throughout the night to contain the smoky wildfire that has destroyed nearly 50 structures and forced dozens from their homes in Douglas and Bayfield counties. They had it about 90 percent contained Wednesday morning, meaning firefighters have stopped most of the fire from spreading.

Culhane said Wednesday morning it could still be days before they get the fire completely put out. No injuries have been reported.
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TOWN OF GORDON, Wis.(DNR NEWS RELEASE) – 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.

“I have complete confidence in our DNR crews and the local firefighters who have been fighting this fire non-stop for 17 hours,” DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said this morning. “Our wildfire crews train constantly for such an emergency and they are up to the task. I’m grateful there has been no loss of life or even any reported injuries. Our sympathies are with those individuals and families who have lost their homes.”

DNR incident commander Larry Glodoski said the fire was 90 percent contained at 7 a.m.

“With wind out of the northwest, our concern has been the southern and eastern flanks of the fire,” said Glodoski. “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.”

The Department of Natural Resources has also issued an air quality special notice in eastern Douglas County and western Bayfield County yesterday. There are no air monitoring sites near the fire, they are still cautioning people to be aware of the possibility of air quality problems downwind of the fire.

Residents were evacuated from the Loon Lake, Sand Lake, Murray Lake, Potawatomi 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.

Glodoski met with evacuees at 8 a.m. He said people forced out of their homes by the fire would probably 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.

Glodoski 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.

Two Army National Guard helicopters are en route and will arrive at 11 a.m. A quick strike mission of two CL-415 water bombers from Ontario will be on site momentarily.

Fire danger levels remain high and DNR 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 have been suspended statewide and all and prescribed burning by DNR personnel have been canceled due to the large fire activity and fire weather conditions in NE Wisconsin.
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 Nebagamon.

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.

The Germann Road Fire started around 2:30 p.m. northeast of Simms Lake and with high winds out of the southwest, it raced north and east, eventually jumping State 27 in the area of Sand and Ellison lakes. DNR firefighters set up their first command post at the Barnes Ranger Station but had to evacuate at 8 p.m. Tuesday after winds shifted dramatically, coming out of the northwest. The current incident command post is at the Gordon Fire Department.
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TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (AP) -- Firefighters worked to contain a smoky wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin that has consumed 8,700 acres, destroyed nearly 50 structures and forced dozens from their homes.

The Department of Natural Resources says the wildfire is about 90 percent contained, meaning firefighters have stopped most of the fire from spreading.

DNR spokesman Kevin Harter says while 47 structures were lost, including 17 homes, firefighters were able to save 77 additional structures. He says there have been no injuries to either firefighters or residents of the affected area.

Harter says 60 evacuees registered at Drummond High School and 22 stayed overnight.

DNR officials say the wildfire was first reported near the Town of Barnes Tuesday. Conservation wardens went door-to-door in the area to alert homeowners of the fire danger.
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TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (AP) -- A smoky wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin spreading to 6,800 acres has destroyed at least 50 structures and forced dozens of residents to leave their homes.

The state Department of Natural Resources says the fire in Douglas County is about 80 percent contained Wednesday morning, but changing weather conditions could refuel the massive blaze. The fire is roughly six miles long and about a mile wide.

DNR officials say the wildfire was first reported near the Town of Barnes Tuesday. Conservation wardens went door-to-door in the area to alert homeowners of the fire danger. About 40 evacuees spent the night at Drummond High School.

Members of 17 local, state and federal firefighting crews worked through the night to contain the fire, fueled by pine and mixed hardwoods.

BARNES, Wis. (WEAU) -- Firefighters from several departments are working feverishly right now trying to contain a massive wildfire in Northern Wisconsin.

They are evacuating people from their homes in four areas as the flames are spreading across more than 3,500 acres.

It is happening easy of Solon Springs near the Douglas/Bayfield County line. The DNR says the fire broke out this afternoon around 4:00 and has grown to more than five square miles.

People are being forced out of their homes as the flames spread. At last check there were no injuries.

A DNR spokesman on the ground tells us the change in winds has made fighting the fire challenging. The command post had to be moved because of it. The fire continues to spread as well.

"It's an area that has a lot of seasonal homes, a lot of seasonal cabins, as it is continuing to move it is getting into an area that has a lot more structures," said Neal Kephart, a spokesperson with the Wisconsin DNR.

Kephart says at one point, the fire was spreading at a rate of two miles per hour.

He says crews will keep fighting the fire overnight. He says the wind is expected to subside and the humidity will go up, but still conditions will be dangerous.
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The State Patrol says:
WIS 27 is closed in both directions between County S and County Y due to a brush fire. Traffic is being diverted onto County roads.
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THE LATEST FROM THE DNR:

Douglas County wildfire near Barnes has burned 3,500 acres so far
A wildfire reported southwest of the Township of Barnes in Douglas County this afternoon so far has burned 3,500 acres, several structures and is still growing.

The cause of the wildfire is under investigation. No injuries have been reported. Evacuations are underway near Loon Lake, Sand Lake and Murray Lake. Several seasonal homeowners reside in the area and more structures are threatened.

Also, about an hour ago, the winds shifted from the southwest to the northwest. A portion of the fire has crossed Highway 27. That led to the ongoing evacuation of Potowatomi Village. The relocation center is Barnes Community Church. Red Cross and state emergency management officials are making arrangements for the evacuees.

Several DNR units have arrived on scene and several more have been ordered. Units include 7 DNR tractor plows, 2 heavy dozers, 2 air attack planes and 4 single engine air tankers (2 from Wisconsin and 2 from Minnesota) are aggressively working the fire. Four local fire departments and two USDA Forest Service engines are also assisting with suppression efforts. Sixteen more DNR tractor plows are en route. The Northwest District incident management team has been activated and the command post is at the DNR Barnes Ranger Station. Douglas County and Bayfield County Emergency Management are also on scene assisting the incident.

The fire is roughly six miles long and about a mile wide at the widest point. The fire is burning in pine and mixed hardwoods. Today’s weather conditions resulted in high fire danger with DNR suspending outdoor burning in the area. Contributing factors include warm temperatures, low relative humidity and very windy conditions.
At this time, it is too early to predict when fire fighters will have the wildfire under control.

Cooler temperatures and an increase in humidity expected overnight. However, a shift in winds out of the northwest and similar conditions to today could create challenges with firefighting tactics if the fire continues into tomorrow. Stay tuned to local media outlets for updates.

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FROM THE DNR:

Barnes, Wis. –This afternoon a wildfire was reported southwest of the Township of Barnes in Douglas County and is reported to have burned 3500 acres and several structures and is still growing. The cause of the wildfire is still under investigation. No injuries have been reported. Evacuations are underway near Loon Lake, Sand Lake and Murray Lake. Several seasonal homeowners reside in the area and more structures are threatened.

Several DNR units have arrived on scene and several more have been ordered. Units include 7 DNR tractor plows, 2 heavy dozers, 2 air attack planes and 4 single engine air tankers (2 from Wisconsin and 2 from Minnesota) are aggressively working the fire. Four local fire departments and two USDA Forest Service engines are also assisting with suppression efforts. Sixteen more DNR tractor plows are en route. The Northwest District incident management team has been activated and the command post is at the DNR Barnes Ranger Station. Douglas County and Bayfield County Emergency Management are also on scene assisting the incident.

The fire is roughly six miles long and about a mile wide at the widest point. The fire is traveling northeast and is burning in pine and mixed hardwoods. Today’s weather conditions resulted in high fire danger with DNR suspending outdoor burning in the area. Contributing factors include warm temperatures, low relative humidity and very windy conditions.

Winds at this hour are at 9 mph with gusts up to 24 mph, and the temperature is 87 degrees with relative humidity at 23%. At this time, it is too early to predict when fire fighters will have the wildfire under control.

Cooler temperatures and an increase in humidity expected overnight. However, a shift in winds out of the northwest and similar conditions to today could create challenges with firefighting tactics if the fire continues into tomorrow. Stay tuned to local media outlets for updates.


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