Governor Walker declares state of emergency for two counties - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Governor Walker declares state of emergency for two counties

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From Governor Walker's office:

Madison – Governor Scott Walker has issued Executive Order #103 declaring a state of emergency in response to a forest fire, which has destroyed more than 9,000 acres in Bayfield and Douglas Counties.

"Tonette and I send our prayers and concern to the people who have lost property and those who have been evacuated because of this forest fire," Governor Walker said.  "As we continue to closely monitor the situation, I want to thank our first responders, the Wisconsin National Guard, Wisconsin Emergency Management, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their work battling this forest fire.  I also would like to thank the States of Minnesota and Michigan, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Province of Ontario for their assistance."

Thus far, 47 structures have been lost, including 17 homes, 15 garages, 9 outbuildings, and 6 others.  Firefighters from 37 fire departments have saved 77 structures, including 42 homes.  No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.  The forest fire, known as "The Germann Road Fire," is the largest in Wisconsin since the Oak Lake Fire that burned over 11,400 acres in Washburn County on April 22, 1980.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has established a telephone hotline.  Residents who believe their property may be potentially impacted by the forest fire are urged to call (715) 376-4185.  This number will connect residents to Incident Command, where staff are prepared to update them.  Residents wishing to visit their property must be escorted, and these site visits can be arranged by calling the hotline.

Governor Walker plans to tour the affected area and visit with first responders and local officials tomorrow at the Gordon Fire Hall with Adjutant General Donald Dunbar, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp, and Wisconsin Emergency Management officials. 

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As of 6 p.m. from the DNR:

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 715-225-3560 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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Gordon (WQOW) - "Conditions were just right.  It was just perfect conditions for a fire like this to develop with relatively low humidities and high winds," says DNR information officer Neal Kephart.

The fire, at one point, consumed more than two miles of landscape per hour... destroying mostly everything in its path, but still sparing a few fortunate homes.  In total, it has consumed more than 9,000 acres and 47 buildings, including 17 homes, which thankfully were evacuated in time.

No injuries have been reported.

"Obviously some people were very glad about the news because their homes were unaffected.  Some people received some very devastating news that their lives were significantly impacted," says Kirk Douglas of the American Red Cross.

The Red Cross set up a temporary shelter in the neighboring town of Drummond and helped more than 60 people as they waited to learn the fate of their homes.

"Remarkably, spirits were somewhat high, positive, hoping for the best, but understanding that the situation had a high level of concern," says Douglas.

Although the fire is mostly contained, there are still safety concerns in the aftermath and not everyone is being allowed back into their homes.  "Firefighter and public safety remains the top priority.  People are not going to be allowed back into those areas until they're safe," says Kephart.

"People in the Bayfield community have been allowed to go back into that area, but other communities are still under restriction at this time," says Douglas.

Northern Wisconsin isn't the only area at risk for fires right now, much of the state is on high alert.  "Current fire danger is going to be listed as very high... because of the winds and the low humidity and the amount of fuel load that's on the forest," says Kephart.

The days ahead for this fire depend on the weather, but fire crews aren't taking any chances and continue to evacuate anyone near the leading edge of the fire.

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UPDATED News Release from the DNR:

GORDON – Wildfire crews from the Department of Natural Resources, working through the night and joined by more than 100 municipal firefighters, have largely surrounded the Germann Road Fire which has scorched 8,700 acres of forest land 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.

DNR's Incident Management Team is in place at the Gordon Fire Hall on County Y, east of U.S. 53. Any media covering this fire is asked to report to this location.

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GORDON (Press Release from the DNR) – Wildfire crews from the Department of Natural Resources, working through the night and joined by more than 100 municipal firefighters, have largely surrounded the Germann Road Fire which has scorched 8,700 acres of forest land 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.

DNR's Incident Management Team is in place at the Gordon Fire Hall on County Y, east of U.S. 53. Any media covering this fire is asked to report to this location.

 

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Barnes, Wis. –A wildfire that started southwest of the Township of Barnes in Douglas County has now consumed approximately 6,800 acres. Several structures are destroyed and the fire is not contained. 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 and Potowatomi Village. Several seasonal homeowners reside in the area and more structures are threatened.

An evacuation center is now located at Drummond High School. Red Cross and state emergency management officials are making arrangements for the evacuees.

DNR's Incident Management Team is in place at the Gordon Fire Hall. Any media covering this fire is asked to report to this location.

Several DNR units have arrived on scene and several more have been ordered. Requests are being worked on to obtain extra equipment from Ontario, Canada. Two Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopters are also requested to assist in suppression operations beginning Wednesday morning. Units currently working this fire 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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News Release 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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