Gov. Walker declares state of emergency for northwest Wisconsin
Governor Scott Walker and a host of state officials will tour the site of the nine-thousand-acre wildfire in northwest Wisconsin today.
They'll also meet with first responders and local officials to see what they need, after Walker called a state-of-emergency last night. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp will also make the trip - along with state Homeland Security chief Don Dunbar, and state emergency management officials. The DNR's Robert Manwell confirmed this morning that the blaze is now fully contained - and crews will continue to rework the edges of the wildfire and put out small brush fires along the way. No injuries have been reported.
The DNR is investigating the cause. Media reports said it started at a logging operation near Solon Springs, perhaps by sparks from vehicles or machinery. From there, it spread at a pace of up to two-miles-an-hour in the early going. Seventeen homes and 30 other structures were destroyed in the state's largest wildfire since 1980, when 11-thousand acres were burned at Oak Lake in Washburn County. The governor thanked all who've been fighting this week's blaze - including units from the U.S. Forest Service, Ontario, Michigan, and Minnesota.
Wisconsin had a slow start to the spring wildfire season before this week's blaze that destroyed over nine-thousand acres in Douglas and Bayfield counties. DNR prevention specialist Catherine Koele said that as of Monday, her agency handled a near-record-low 289 wildfires covering about 450 acres. The late winter provided lots of moisture until just a few days ago. Now, the DNR says the northern two-thirds of Wisconsin has a very high risk of wildfires due to stronger winds and warmer temperatures. About the southeast third of the state has a somewhat lesser fire danger, but it's still high. Burning permits were suspended yesterday throughout the state, and Florence and Marinette counties had Red Flag Warnings imposed. Media reports say sparks from machinery or vehicles at a logging site might have caused the northwest Wisconsin wildfire - the state's largest in 33 years. It was contained last night, with just over nine-thousand acres burned and 47 structures destroyed. DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said she was extremely thankful that no one was hurt, and her agency's thoughts are with those evacuated from the site. The DNR says an information phone line has been set up for evacuees. It shut down late last night, but will re-open at eight this morning. Here's the number - 715-376-4185.