Largest fire since 2005 burns in Douglas, Bayfield countiesTuesday’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.
By: By Joanne M. Haas, Bureau of Law Enforcement, Division of Forestry, Superior Telegram
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 Department of Natural Resources 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 town 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 provided assistance.
By early evening, more fire crews had assembled onsite, 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 seven DNR tractor plows, two heavy dozers, two air attack planes and four 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, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/topic/ForestFire/restrictions.asp.
Highway 27 has reopened, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.