Posted at: 05/14/2013 5:50 PM
Updated at: 05/16/2013 9:51 PM
By: Jon Ellis & Maarja Anderson
TOWN OF GORDON, Wis. (AP) - Crews battling a wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin have contained the blaze. They have also reduced the estimated size of the burn area from more than 9,000 acres to 8,131 acres.
Department of Natural Resources spokesman Robert Manwell said Thursday the fire in Douglas and Bayfield counties is 100 percent contained. Manwell says fire crews will be handling small brush fires and reworking the lines that contain the wildfire.
Authorities opened all roads in the area overnight and some residents headed back to their homes. The fire, which began Tuesday, destroyed 17 homes and 30 other structures. The DNR says no one has been hurt in the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years.
Gov. Scott Walker has declared a state of emergency in Douglas and Bayfield counties, which makes the Wisconsin National Guard available for recovery efforts.
Walker is touring the area Thursday afternoon.
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The last twenty-four hours brought calm for firefighters, but grief to residents who were sorting out the damage. A wildfire Tuesday forced evacuations in parts of southern Douglas County and western Bayfield County.
According to the InciWeb Incident Information System, Wednesday afternoon the fire was almost out, with containment at 90 percent and 9,026 acres burned.
Kevin Harter, a DNR public affairs officer, said 47 structures were lost, including 17 homes, but that firefighters were able to save 77 other buildings. The fire began to slow down around 10 p.m. Tuesday. He attributed the slow down to shifting winds and the blaze moving from pine to oak trees.
No injuries have been reported.
Wisconsin DNR officials told Eyewitness News the fire started Tuesday afternoon in the Town of Gordon and has been dubbed the Germann Road Fire.
"This is our worst-case scenario fire in this area that we have planned for," said Keith Kesler, the director of Douglas County emergency management, in an interview with Wisconsin Public Radio.
A mandatory evacuation was ordered for Barnes Township west of County Highway A and north of County Highway N. Earlier, some residents were evacuated in the Rock Lake, Beauregard Lake, Loon Lake, Murray Lake, and Sandy Lake areas, as well as Potawatomi Estates.
An evacuation center had been set up at Drummond High School. The center had originally been set up in Barnes, but Kesler said it had to be moved due to heavy smoke in Barnes. Kesler urged gawkers to stay away from the area.
Smoke plumes from the fire were so high they could be easily seen forty miles away in Duluth.
The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center sent an air attack platform and personnel to help with the fire. Harter said Wednesday morning that the National Guard is sending in two Blackhawk helicopters to help with the effort. Also, two tanker planes from Ontario will provide assistance.