Volunteer firefighters in Douglas County were called to a pair of back-to-back structure fires Saturday, Feb. 6. No injuries were reported, but four people were displaced and one of the homes was a complete loss.
The first fire was reported at 9925 County Road A in Solon Springs, the residence next to Soft Pines Resort, at 10:10 a.m. Saturday. Solon Springs fire chief Jonathon Brostowitz said the two-story home was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on scene.
Once the flames were tamped down, Brostowitz said the home’s steel roof hampered efforts to extinguish the remaining hot spots. A backhoe from the town of Solon Springs was used to peel the roof off and get to the spots.
Temperatures didn’t rise above -4 degrees Fahrenheit during the six hours firefighters worked on the Solon Springs home, Brostowitz said. Keeping crew members warm and hydrated, and preventing equipment from freezing up, were key priorities. The fire chief said Lakeview Lodge provided pizza for the firefighters, and the owner of Soft Pines let them warm up indoors.
Firefighters from Bennett, Gordon and Hawthorne provided mutual aid for the blaze. The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office provided traffic control and a Mayo Ambulance was on standby.
Members of the Wascott Volunteer Fire Department were on their way to Solon Springs to provide added support, but the Wascott crew was redirected to Bennett when a structure fire was reported at 11:45 a.m.
It was a highly unusual situation, said Wascott fire chief Tom Michalek.
“We were only responding with two tenders, water supply trucks,” he said. “That plays a little bit into how you’re going to attack a fire if you don’t have a fire engine there. We had to improvise a little bit.”
Michalek pulled up first, driving the Wascott department’s 21-year-old tender truck. All three occupants were already outside of the one-story house. No smoke or flames were showing, but steam was coming off the roof indicating it was getting hot from the inside.
Michalek made entry and discharged a fire extinguisher onto embers in the attic space to slow things down until additional firefighters arrived. When Wascott’s second truck — a newer tanker with pumping capabilities — arrived, firefighters deployed its hose. Lake Nebagamon, Maple and Highland firefighters responded to the Bennett fire, as well.
The cause of both fires remained undetermined. Michalek said the Bennett fire originated in the attic and was not suspicious. All four people who were displaced by the fires indicated they had somewhere to go, according to the fire chiefs.
Despite the cold, Brostowitz said, almost all the Douglas County volunteer fire departments were out and about.
“Everybody helps everybody, it’s how we play,” Michalek said. “Boundaries don’t mean anything when someone needs something.”
When asked if they had any advice for people during the current cold snap, both chiefs stressed checking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure they are working properly and have fresh batteries.
Brostowitz encouraged people to set up a meeting place for their family in case a fire takes place, and to watch their chimneys closely.
“Right now people are really using their wood stoves,” he said. “Keep an eye on those chimneys. We’ve had a couple people call and their house is full of smoke because their chimney is backed up.”