After The Fire: Recovery Begins


People are picking up the pieces after a fire in northern Wisconsin that burned more than 8,100 acres and destroyed 17 homes last week.

A meeting at the Barnes Town Hall on Saturday was aimed at helping victims of the region’s largest wildfire in 33 years.

June Thiele finds her angel at the Barnes Town Hall. She spots Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Warden Lance Burns of the Gordon Ranger Station in the crowd of about 150 people. It’s the first time she’s seen Burns since he evacuated her from her home Tuesday afternoon.

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Thiele: “He was tearing my door down. No, he didn’t get shot.”

Burns: “I know, June. I was worried about that, June. (laughter)”

Now Thiele and others are wondering what to do next. DNR Forestry Supervisor Jay Gallagher says the DNR’s Division of Forestry will pay for the bulk of the cost to fight the blaze. Gallagher says that’s because the logger responsible for starting the fire was not found to be negligent.

“When it comes to town roads, telephone pedestals, people’s homes, things like that: those are civil issues. There’s a civil liability that that individual is going to be responsible for.”

Damage estimates aren’t known yet. Meanwhile, Douglas County Administrator Andy Lisak says Bayfield and Douglas Counties are offering a range of services from mental health to housing assistance.

“The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority has provided funds, which will be managed by Douglas County, for folks that have lost their residences and need either temporary shelter or short-term housing as you’re starting to rebuild.”

Town of Gordon Supervisor Jack Meinke says he’s grateful for the support from the community and first responders.