Gov. Walker surveys damage from massive wildfire

Governor declared a state of emergency

Published On: May 16 2013 08:33:39 AM CDT   Updated On: May 16 2013 07:18:15 PM CDT

Law enforcement officials confirmed the massive wildfire that destroyed 8,131 acres in Bayfield and Douglas Counties started from a logging crew harvesting timber on industrial timber lands at about 2:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Governor Scott Walker declared a state of emergency and surveyed the damage of "The Germann Road Fire" Thursday afternoon in Gordon, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says the operator of the logging equipment noticed smoke coming from below the cutting head of the machine while harvesting timber.

"The operator got out of the machine and made a concerted effort to extinguish the fire using a fire extinguisher located in the cab of the harvester," said Gary Bibow, Fire Law Enforcement Specialist. "Another operator on the crew immediately called 911 and DNR resources were on scene in less than 10 minutes."

SLIDESHOW: Pictures from Douglas County wildfire

The DNR announced Thursday morning that firefighters had contained the blaze. After a thorough investigation, it was determined that there was no negligence involved and there was no intential setting of fire to the land. The DNR and the Douglas County District Attorney have recommended that no criminal charges be filed.

As of Thursday morning, 47 structures were destroyed, including 17 homes. Firefighters were able to save 77 other buildings, including 42 houses. "The Germann Road Fire" is the largest in Wisconsin since the Oak Lake Fire burned over 11,400 acres in Washburn County on April 22, 1980.

"The damage we've seen today is widespread, and many families have lost their homes or other property," Governor Walker said. "To the victims of this fire, I want you to know that the State of Wisconsin stands with you, and I am directing our state agencies to do everything they can to help you recover and rebuild during this difficult time. I thank our first responders and all those involved in the coordinated effort to contain this fire."

Governor Walker is directing state agencies to help residents in the following ways:

An information line (715-376-4185) has been set up at the fire command center where evacuees can get up-to-date information on damage to structures. The information line was staffed Wednesday until 10:30 p.m. and reopened at 8 a.m. on Thursday. The DNR says residents who want to visit thrie property must be escorted. Thoes visits can be arranged by calling the hotline.