Sauk Co. homeowner reacts to cabin's wildfire near miss

Evacuation lifted; Governor tours areas destroyed by fire

Published On: May 16 2013 11:19:19 PM CDT   Updated On: May 16 2013 11:25:11 PM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

On the same day Gov. Scott Walker toured the area ravaged by a wildfire, residents were let back into their homes.

The Department of Natural Resources said the Douglas County fire destroyed 17 homes there and in Bayfield County, including 30 other structures.

New Freedom native Jodie Robertson said the fire came within a half-mile of her home. Her cousin and husband weren’t so lucky.

"They lost everything," Robertson said. "I heard she was at Walmart to get prescriptions refilled, look for basics, clothes, because they didn’t even have that when they left."

The couple will stay at Robertson’s cabin on Look Lake until they can recover from the fire that’s being called the worst in Northern Wisconsin in years.

"This is a historic event for Wisconsin, certainly," said Wildfire Prevention Specialist Catherine Koele. "(It’s) probably one of the biggest fires we’ve had in 33 years, so it’ll definitely go down in the record books."

Since the evacuations lifted, crews are in clean-up mode. The DNR's Division of Forestry spokesperson has reminders for residents living in fire-prone areas.

"If you have rain gutters filled with pine needles and debris, that’s a perfect place for an ember from a wildfire to land, smolder and ignite debris,” said Jolene Ackerman. "If you’re going to have any kind of mulch, it should be rock or stone-based, something that won’t ignite."

If not advice, Robertson says, community support will help her family recover.

"They’re taken care of," said Jodie Robertson. "They’re taking care of each other. It's a huge neighborhood up there with wonderful people."

Walker declared a state of emergency in Douglas and Bayfield Counties, which makes the National Guard available for recovery efforts.

Authorities said logging operations started the fire and since it wasn't intentionally set, criminal charges aren’t expected.