Walker declares state of emergency in counties affected by wildfire

DRUMMOND, Wis. (WITI) -- Wildfire crews from the Department of Natural Resources, working through the night and joined by more than 100 municipal firefighters, have largely surrounded the Germann Road Fire which has scorched over 9,000 acres of forestland in Douglas and Bayfield counties.

Thus far, 47 structures have been lost, including 17 homes, 15 garages, 9 outbuildings, and 6 others.  Firefighters from 37 fire departments have saved 77 structures, including 42 homes.  No injuries have been reported, and the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.  The forest fire, known as “The Germann Road Fire,” is the largest in Wisconsin since the Oak Lake Fire that burned over 11,400 acres in Washburn County on April 22, 1980.

Late Wednesday night, Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency in Bayfield and Douglas Counties.

“Tonette and I send our prayers and concern to the people who have lost property and those who have been evacuated because of this forest fire,” Governor Walker said.  “As we continue to closely monitor the situation, I want to thank our first responders, the Wisconsin National Guard, Wisconsin Emergency Management, and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for their work battling this forest fire.  I also would like to thank the States of Minnesota and Michigan, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Province of Ontario for their assistance," Gov. Walker said in a statement.

No injuries were reported Wednesday morning as firefighters entered their second day battling the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years.

"DNR crews are working tirelessly and in close cooperation with area firefighters, law enforcement professionals and federal firefighting crews. The fire is largely surrounded and 95 percent contained. We are extremely thankful there have been no injuries reported, however numerous homes have been lost. Our thoughts are with the evacuees and those who have lost their homes in this forestland fire," DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said.

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 but 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.

A DNR official said people forced out of their homes by the fire would probably not be able to check their properties Wednesday. 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 cause of the fire, currently listed as unknown, is under investigation.

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 officials are urging folks to consider making a donation to the American Red Cross by visiting redcross.org or dialing 1-800-RED-CROSS.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has established a telephone hotline.  Residents who believe their property may be potentially impacted by the forest fire are urged to call (715) 376-4185.  This number will connect residents to Incident Command, where staff are prepared to update them.  Residents wishing to visit their property must be escorted, and these site visits can be arranged by calling the hotline.

Additional information on this fire is available by CLICKING HERE.