Fort McCoy officials report Arcadia Fire is 100 percent contained

14 counties under red flag fire warning Friday, down from 38 counties Thursday

A wildfire burns forest land in Monroe County
A wildfire continues to burn in northern Monroe County on Thursday, April 13, 2023. DNR officials said the fire’s intensity died down in the evening, allowing firefighters to increase containment lines. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

Officials at Fort McCoy are reporting a wildfire on the Monroe County base is now 100 percent contained.

In a press release on Friday afternoon, Fort McCoy officials said their efforts “remain focused on identifying and extinguishing hotspots.”

“Fort McCoy’s utmost concern is the safety of our neighbors and their property,” said the press release. “We are very thankful for all those who are engaged in fighting the fire and supporting our local community.”

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The Arcadia Fire had burned 3,168 acres as of Friday morning. Since starting Wednesday night, much of the fire has been at Fort McCoy, with only 109 acres affected outside of the U.S. army installation’s boundaries.

The state Department of Natural Resources reported the wildfire was 77 percent contained at 1:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, an increase from the 60 percent containment reported Friday morning.

“The terrain at Fort McCoy is extremely steep and rough terrain, so there’s been some challenges related to getting some of our suppression equipment in the area,” said Catherine Koele, wildfire prevention specialist for the DNR. “We’ve had to use a lot of air assets, including the Black Hawk helicopters (from the Wisconsin National Guard), which have been a wonderful asset to slow the intensity of that fire.”

Koele said the helicopters and other air equipment are not able to put the fire out, but they allow crews on the ground to move close enough to extinguish the fire.

It’s the third day in a row that parts of western and central Wisconsin have been under a Red Flag warning. The special warning is issued when weather factors like warm temperatures, gusty winds and exceptionally dry vegetation creates especially dangerous fire conditions. Fourteen counties had a red flag fire warning on Friday, down from the 38 counties in total on Thursday.

Koele said it’s unusual to see such a prolonged period of time under a red flag warning. She said conditions have started to improve and officials are hopeful progress will continue this weekend, with rain forecast for the area. While rain won’t extinguish the blaze, Koele said it should diminish the fire’s intensity.

“There’s still a lot of work that happens after a large fire like this even when it does rain because the large fields, the big trees, stumps, things like that will burn for days on end. So we have to get in there and really snuff those fires out,” Koele said.

Officials evacuated an area west of Warrens around 7 p.m. Thursday, reporting an additional 85 structures were threatened by the wildfire. Some of those evacuations were rescinded by 8:30 p.m. after the fire intensity died down in the evening.

“It’s not uncommon for us to initiate evacuations ahead of a fire,” Koele said. “Unfortunately, fire is very unpredictable. So obviously we want to err on the side of safety.”

She said around 30 residences were still under evacuation Friday morning, but that status was lifted by noon.

No injuries have been reported as a result of the wildfire, which has damaged at least three structures and destroyed one shed.

The DNR, Fort McCoy, the U.S. Forest Service, Wisconsin National Guard, local fire departments and county officials have all responded to the fire. A DNR press release on Friday said an investigation into the cause of the wildlife is being conducted, but cautioned the process will take time.

State map showing 37 counties under extreme fire danger
Thirty-seven counties were under extreme fire danger on Friday, April 14, 2023, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Courtesy of the Wisconsin DNR

In nearby Juneau County, Koele said the Jack Pine fire near Necedah is now fully contained after burning 100 acres. Evacuations in the area were lifted Thursday evening.

“We have a line around (the fire) and good containment lines,” she said. “There’s still a lot of work that needs to happen on the interior of that fire. We still have a lot of stuff smoldering and a lot of trees on the interior that are still burning, so you’re probably going to see some smoke for a little bit yet.”

On Friday, 37 counties in western, central and southern Wisconsin were under extreme fire danger. Three counties in northwestern Wisconsin and 12 counties in the northeastern region are under very high fire danger.

DNR officials are asking the public to avoid burning and using extreme caution when operating chainsaws, off-road vehicles and other small engines that have the potential to throw a spark.