UPDATE: Cause of Wood County Marsh Fire Still Under Investigation

By: Team Coverage Email
By: Team Coverage Email

(Press Release) Firefighters continue to attack stubborn hot spots remaining from a wildland fire that scorched approximately 102 acres last Wednesday in the Towns of Rudolph and Sigel in Wood County.

Although the fire was contained by late evening on Wednesday, a small area of marshland continues to smolder. At approximately 4:40 p.m., the Rudolph Volunteer Fire Department responded to the report of a of a grass fire behind 5298 County Road S in the Town of Sigel. The fire apparently started along a fence line nearly one-half mile east of that address. The blaze quickly spread north and east into the Town of Rudolph. It was stopped at 5th Avenue but jumped Reddin Road before being stopped by the efforts of firefighters and a fire line cut by DNR bulldozers.

Rudolph Fire Chief Tony Konkol reported that the 46 Rudolph firefighters who responded were assisted by fire crews from the Grand Rapids, Pittsville, Arpin, Richfield, Vesper, Port Edwards, Nekoosa, and Sherry Fire Departments.

DNR firefighting personnel from Whiting and Wisconsin Rapids also responded with 3 bulldozers and a “low-ground vehicle” specially designed for firefighting in wet or swampy areas. This vehicle is normally stationed in Woodruff, but was repositioned to Wisconsin Rapids earlier this summer due to dry conditions in Central Wisconsin.

The Wood County Sheriff’s Department, Wisconsin State Patrol and Wisconsin Rapids Police Department provided traffic control.

Although approximately 30 people were evacuated from their homes, all were allowed to return by late Wednesday evening. DNR Forest Ranger Chris Klahn said that 9 homes and 17 outlying buildings were saved by firefighters. The only structures lost were a barn that had collapsed several years ago and a nearby abandoned mobile home. No other structures were damaged and no injuries were reported.

Firefighters were called back to the scene on Thursday to extinguish smoldering vegetation. Fire had taken hold in compacted vegetation and peat, and was still burning beneath the surface in some areas.
On Friday, firefighters laid over 4,000 feet of hose along firebreaks and began attacking small fires still smoldering below ground level within an 8 acre area of marshland. Over 130,000 gallons of water were pumped into hot spots on Friday and Saturday. Between 30 and 40 firefighters from Rudolph, Grand Rapids, Pittsville, Vesper, Richfield, Port Edwards and Nekoosa, as well as DNR firefighters from Whiting and Wisconsin Rapids, responded both days.

The DNR low-ground vehicle patrolled the area still containing hot spots on Sunday. Rudolph and Vesper firefighters were called out late Sunday afternoon when a flare up was reported, but it was quickly extinguished.

A thorough survey utilizing thermal imaging equipment was conducted early Monday morning to locate and mark remaining small fires still smoldering beneath the surface. Rudolph firefighters then worked on extinguishing the 60 to 70 hot spots marked. This process is expected to be repeated for the next several mornings until all fires are completely extinguished.

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined.

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