Wed May 15, 2013
Wildfire Roars In Far Northwestern Wisconsin
A wildfire seemed to explode in a pine barren region of Douglas County Tuesday evening, then did a U-turn that forced the evacuation center to itself evacuate to another area.
Bayfield County Emergency Management Director Jan Victorson was at the evacuation center at a church in Barnes when she saw ashes in the air heading her way. The wind had shifted.
“That was a new experience. When the winds changed and we needed to make changes to where the incident command post was and where we were planning to shelter folks, that was a very sobering time.”
The shelter moved to Drummond and the command center evacuated to Gordon. Douglas County Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler says they had no choice.
“The smoke. Everything we had in that area where we had the shelter set up... there’s so much smoke that you can’t hardly breathe.”
The Douglas County sheriff declared an emergency police services condition asking for outside help. The Emergency Alert System broadcast on radio and TV stations about evacuations. Kesler says up until now, this was only a scenario for a drill. But this was the real deal.
“It’s a very dangerous place. This is our worst-case scenario fire for this area that we have planned for. It’s jumped the county line. We have resources from both counties. We’re hitting it with everything we can at it and it’s still running.”
As of midnight, 30 to 35 people waited in the Drummond High School for word about whether they’d be sleeping on a cot or able to return home.