May 16, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 115

Largest northern Wisconsin wildfire in 33 years brought under control

GORDON, Wis. — Wildfire crews from the Department of Natural Resources worked through Tuesday night, joined by more than 100 municipal firefighters, in surrounding a wildfire that scorched 8,700 acres in Douglas and Bayfield counties.

WDNR photo
AN AERIAL view from a plane shows the massive fire that consumed thousands of acres near Gordon, Wis.

The Germann Road Fire was battled for a second day on Wednesday as firefighters fought 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 WDNR incident commander Larry Gladowski. He said the fire was 90 percent contained at 7 a.m. Wednesday.

With hot, dry and windy conditions, people in northern Wisconsin were reminded to be extremely careful with fires.

Residents were evacuated from Loon Lake, Sand Lake, Murray Lake, Potowatomi Estates, Rock Lake, Beauregard Lake, Catherine Lake, Ellison Lake and village of Barnes.

An evacuation center was set up at Drummond High School.

Red Cross and state emergency management officials made arrangements for the evacuees. A total of 59 evacuees registered at the high school and 22 people occupied cots overnight.

Gladowski said people forced out of their homes by the fire would not be able to check their properties later Wednesday.

DNR officials said it will take wildfire crews several days to suppress hot spots within the containment area.

The WDNR reported 47 structures lost, including 17 homes, 15 garages, nine out buildings and six unknown buildings.

Firefighters saved 77 structures, including 42 houses.

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Nineteen fire departments assisted the DNR and the U.S. Forest Service on the massive fire, with 52 fire trucks.

The firefight was joined Wednesday by two water bombers from Ontario and two Blackhawk helicopters from the Wisconsin National Guard equipped with buckets for water drops. DNR pilots in spotter planes were in the air since the fire began.

The last major forest fire in northern Wisconsin, called the Oak Lake Fire, occurred April 22, 1980, and consumed 11,418 acres of forest.