UPDATED(4:20 p.m.) Hotline established for individuals affected by Germann Road fire
GORDON -- The Department of Natural Resources has established a hotline which residents potentially impacted by the Germann Road Fire in Douglas County can call to learn about the status of their homes and property.
The phone number, 715-376-4185, will connect residents directly to Incident Command where staff are prepared to help update them regarding the status of buildings on their property.
Residents wishing to visit their property will need to be escorted. Arrangements for such site visits to retrieve pets and supplies can be arranged by calling the hotline.
Wildfire crews from the Department of Natural Resources, working through the night and joined by more than one hundred municipal firefighters, have largely surrounded the Germann Road Fire which has scorched 8,700 acres of forestland 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.