8 firefighters injured as Washaura Co. wildfire 99% contained
The ‘Pallet fire’ is estimated to have spread across 830 acres.
COLOMA, Wis. (WMTV) - Twenty buildings have been destroyed by a Waushara County wildfire that erupted Monday, the Department of Natural Resources reported in its latest update. In its new statement Tuesday morning, the agency indicated the fire is 99% contained.
Investigators also revealed burning debris is believed to be the cause of the fire.
State and local emergency responders now estimate the Pallet Fire spread across 830 acres southeast of Coloma. Acknowledging the wide swings in reported sizes on Monday, the DNR stated this latest figure was based on infrared and satellite information coupled with location points on the ground. It expects to refine that number further as more information comes in.
Eight firefighters have been injured while trying to keep the flames from spreading, DNR noted in its update, adding that all of them have since been treated and released.
The fire has been historic, as it has been hard, for the village of Coloma. While wildfires aren’t unusual for central Wisconsin, Village President Tara Runnels said Monday’s fire was the first of its kind for the village. It was also the first time in village history that a crisis plan was put into motion, she said.
“My biggest fear is I don’t want to see anybody left behind,” Runnels said. She described her hometown, a small farming community, concerned about the survival of livestock after many animals were left to run towards safety Monday.
Other helpers assembled around town Tuesday, including local business owners like Doug Sessler donating what they can for first responders. “It’s community,” the owner of Crystal’s Wood Lake Supper Club, said. “You support community. Nobody wishes this on anybody. That’s why we stepped up and did what we can.”
65 fire departments from around the state came to help, according to Coloma’s assistant fire chief.
Emergency responders described the fire’s behavior as erratic and attributed that to the high winds on Monday and the ongoing drought conditions. On top of that, they reported trees were effectively turning into torches, which let the flames move between the treetops.
State officials pointed out that not much rain fell over the area overnight, so many of the weather conditions that facilitated the fire, drought, warm temperatures, and low humidity, are still there. The winds, however, have slowed.
The dangers that enabled the Pallet Fire’s spread extend past Waushara Co. and into much of the rest of the state, DNR continued. Agency officials urged people to use extreme caution around campfires, outdoor grills, chainsaws, off-road vehicles, and with other items that could throw a spark or otherwise ignite a fire until conditions improve.
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