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Fire destroys Tripoli BP
  • Updated

SOMO — On the early morning of Jan. 16, several area fire departments responded to a structure fire at W11069 U.S. 8 in the town of Somo, where the BP gas station and convenience store was already found to be engulfed in smoke and flames by the earliest responders arrived after the 4:01 a.m. dispatch call from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center, according to the press release posted on the Tomahawk Fire Department Facebook page.

With heavy smoke moving toward the roof line of the building, an automatic mutual aid was dispatched from the Nokomis Fire Department for a full response. The Tomahawk Fire Department responded with Engine 3, Engine 5, Rescue 1 and Tender 6. Firefighters started suppression efforts on the interior, but exited as the structure was becoming quickly unstable and hazardous.

Due to the size and growing complexity of the fire, command upgraded the response as part of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System. Other responding units included the Little Rice Fire and Emergency Support Unit, Prentice Fire, Crescent Fire, Corning Fire, Rhinelander Fire, Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Tomahawk EMS. Hazelhurst Fire was requested for a change of quarters and responded to the Nokomis Fire Department for stand by and Merrill EMS also stood by in Tomahawk to ensure EMS coverage.

Ladder 1 from Rhinelander Fire was utilized to access the roof and areas of the building that were unreachable by firefighters. An excavator was utilized to clear parts of the building.

The Lincoln County Highway Department assisted throughout the incident in keeping U.S. 8 sanded and salted, which helped to prevent the highway from having to be closed at any point.

The cause of the fire is unknown at this time, but does not appear to be suspicious, according to the press release. No injuries were reported at any point. All fire units cleared from the scene at approximately 12 p.m.

Tomahawk Fire Chief Paul Winter described the scene as a collective effort between Lincoln County MABAS Division 155, Oneida County Division 114 and Price County Division 149. He credited the various departments and resources that responded to the early morning incident for an outcome without injury or further damage.

“In incidents like this, a pre-planned, collaborative response through the MABAS system leads to a smooth and safe response for all involved,” Winter stated.

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WinterFest Weekend approaches
  • Updated

PHILLIPS — WinterFest is a seasonal favorite time for many people for different reasons. Whether a snowshoer, a snowmobiler, an ice angler, a skater, or a dozen other activities, the whole aim of this flexible and evolving annual winter event is to have something for everyone, said Laura Palzkill, executive director of the Phillips Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber has been organizing this event for years, she said, and events come and go while some have been with it all along.

“We want to be able to reach out to the whole community,” Palzkill said. “Maybe not everything appeals to everyone but the idea is to have something for everyone.”



5 to 7 p.m.

Phillips Community Pool

990 Flambeau Ave.

Of course there are people who want only for winter to end and for the warm summer days to return. But even winter lovers appreciate the inviting sounds of the ukulele, the gentle trade winds of the Pacific and the aloha of the Hawaiian spirit.

Hanna Larson, director of the Phillips Community Pool, organizes the Luau to be held during WinterFest to provide a bit of contrast or if just a warm night before heading out to the snow and ice once more.

Candlelight Walk

6 to 8 p.m.

Wisconsin Concrete Park

N8236 State Highway 13

The Wisconsin Concrete Park’s annual Candlelight walk offers a way to appreciate the unique and historic site and to experience the trail system behind that park that is also celebrated.

“We will have the ice luminaries and lanterns lighting up our nature trail for participants to walk through,” said Ann Grzywnowicz, operations manager for the Friends of Fred Smith. “We will also have a bonfire going, and hot dogs and hot chocolate in our studio building.”

For more information on the Candlelight walk, call 715-339-7282.


Ice Fishing Tournament

6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Chain of Lakes

Participants can still register at Ross’s Sport Shop. The event is limited to comply with Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources regulations, according to John Carlson, sport shop owner and event coordinator. There were 222 participants in 2021.

There are prizes drawings for people who catch a fish of any type or size, with an additional drawing for catch-and-release entries. There are cash prizes in five fish categories in addition to a possible $1,000 prize for a catch that exceeds trophy size.

The contest is open to the entire chain of lakes with weigh stations on Duroy Lake just below the chamber office, and on Long Lake near Hidden Cove, and on Birch Island. There will be a 5 p.m.gathering to announce the winners at Harbor View Bar, 1094 North Lake Ave.

The ice fishing tournament pays 80% of the registration fees back out in cash and prizes, Palzkill said.


The 13th Phillips Flurry will start at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Phillips School Forest at N9199 N. Worcester Road. The event is organized by Price Area Trail Hub, Inc. (PATH) as both a fundraiser and in support of its mission to promote silent sport trails and activities in the community. The 5k and 10k distance snowshoe race is both for serious competitors as an official timed event, but also for the casual snowshoer who wants to get out and enjoy the outdoors in the company of others in a festive event.

For the more competitive, the FLurry serves as the Wisconsin State Snowshoe Championships, including a division for high school boys and girls teams. Each year some of the best racers from the country compete at the Flurry, and the organizers are proud to provide a quality event.

“It is wonderful to be a part of WinterFest weekend, where we can all work together to showcase our fabulous community,” said Flurry coordinator Kristi Speer. “Being that over half of our racers tend to live outside of Price County, it is nice to be able to offer other activities for them and their families to participate in while they are in town.

The Flurry offers two options with the first as an in-person event on race day. There is also the option to participate virtually, completing the event at a time and place of their choosing. Registration for all events online at or in-person on the morning of the event from 8:30 to 10 a.m.

Included with registration is a pair of custom wool socks, along with complementary race photos, entry into an extensive door prize drawing, a delicious luncheon catered by Lola’s Lunchbox, and free entry to Phillips Community Pool for swimming and use of showers and hot tub, Speer said.

Participants of all ages and all ability levels are encouraged to enjoy the scenic course, which incorporates groomed ski trails and winding single track, Speer said. Veteran snowshoers and those new to the sport will experience the rolling terrain and camaraderie of the sport.

“As a race director, one of the most exciting parts about the event from my standpoint is seeing so many returning participants, which I affectionately call my snowshoe family, as well as meeting lots of new faces each and every year,” Speer said. “It’s so rewarding seeing the look of accomplishment on everyone’s face as they come across the finish line.”

The event is all about encouraging participants of all ages and abilities to come participate in the race, even those who have never snowshoed before, she said. Snowshoes can be rented from the Silly Goose in Park Falls for a nominal fee and they are surprisingly easy to use, she said.

“Bring a friend and try it together,” Speer said. “Everyone is welcome!”

Spectators for the event are also welcome, she said. Folks are encouraged to bundle up and cheer on competitors out on the course. The participants always appreciate the support.

For more information visit and


12 to 2 p.m.

First Presbyterian Church

144 N Avon Ave.

A community event is only as good as it provides for the kids, and each year the Phillips Moose Lodge 2661 organizes a kids bingo during WinterFest.

“We play 15 games with winners receiving age-appropriate books, ordered for us by the Phillips Public Library,” said event organizer Rita Vasek. “All children receive a ‘Bear Buck,’ courtesy of the Phillips A&W, and an ice cream treat courtesy of Pick n’ Save.”

Any child that doesn’t win something will get to pick out a book after all games are played, she said. There will also be a raffle for two chromebooks, courtesy of Prevail Bank, and a bicycle, courtesy of Forward Bank.


2 to 4 p.m.

Our Savior Lutheran Church

W6920 Paradise Lane

Another indoor option for Winterfest patrons who are excited about the growing popularity of escape rooms. The event is designed to be an immersive adventure experience that allows friends and families a chance to spend an hour depending on one another to provide their unique talents to help answer questions that solve riddles or challenges to unlock the key to “escape” a locked room.


The Chequamegon Area Girl Scouts will coordinate an ice skating party and act as hostesses for the event from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28 at Elk Lake Park. There will be music and the scouts will bring cookies and hot chocolate all leading up to the evening fireworks.

“It will be really kind of a party atmosphere between the fireworks and the bonfire and the ice skating party and it will just be a really neat evening down there,” she said. “More and more stuff is happening down there (in Elk Lake Park) so it’s pretty cool.”


Each year the WinterFest Snowmobile Parade organizes at Birch Island on County W at 6 p.m. From there the snowmobilers ride the Chain of Lakes along to Long Lake and the woods to Elk Lake Park. The riders are greeted with an event organized by area snowmobile clubs to include a bonfire and fireworks.


7 p.m.

Elk Lake Park

Fireworks over Elk Lake will start at 7 p.m. With funding from the snowmobile association and coordinated through the Phillips Fire Department, the winter fireworks offer a very different experience to the summer fireworks, Palzkill said. The cold air gives the fireworks a crisper sound and the colors seem more brilliant.

Another advantage to winter fireworks is that evening comes sooner and the event can be scheduled earlier than the summer fireworks that come so much later, she said. This also makes it a good family event for the winter and from the advantage of Elk Lake Park with all the other fun happening.



8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Burgers Bar & Grill

784 N Lake Ave.

The Chaparral Snowmobile Club will host its annual Pancake Breakfast in conjunction with the Price County Tavern League holding its Price County Tavern League Tour drawing at 11:30 a.m., to conclude the January tour of member establishments where participants with a card from the chamber or participating establishment can check them off with each visit to qualify for the drawing.


A shop local event from Jan. 20-29, where participating businesses provide deals and where every purchase includes a drawing slip for 12 gift baskets made up of approximately $100 or more in value. Check the chamber website for participating businesses.

“It’s a nice mix of gift certificates and prizes and other items,” Palzkill said. “It’s always a lot of fun to see what the local businesses contribute and to get together.”

Phillips approves solid waste contract

PHILLIPS — The Phillips Committee of the Whole approved a two-year solid waste and recycling contract with Waste Management at the Jan. 10 meeting. The 4-0 roll call vote came with member Richard Heitkemper absent.

Prior to approval there was discussion with residents present who were concerned that elderly and single occupant homes would not find it cost-effective to pay a monthly fee for bins they may not fill, as compared to the sticker system for plastic bags of the previous contract. The committee members urged residents to consider doubling up with neighbors or relatives if this was the case to reduce costs.

The committee also ensured that Waste Management would honor the parks and campgrounds pickup that was included in the previous contract.

Residents are billed $16 monthly for garbage service directly from the city’s contracted garbage company, Waste Management. The recycling service will remain free as the city assumes the cost of a second recycling bin at no additional charge to residents to ensure people will be compliant with state law that forbids recyclable items in the landfills.

In the public safety reports, Phlllips Fire David Lontcoski said the department recorded 89 finished calls in 2022, which is an 8% increase over 75 during the same period in 2021.

He said the department will adjust its personal protective equipment order regarding air packs due to an anticipated 8% increase in price by the time the order would have been placed. The fire department has a replacement schedule for a few bottles every couple years in order to remain compliant with regulations.

An engine will be sent to Chippewa Falls maintenance.and depending on the inspection a pump will be able to be repaired, or will be more cost-effective to be replaced, he said. The department would also like to move toward purchasing a new engine in 2025, he said.

In his report, Phillips Police Chief Michael Hauschild said there were 130 calls for service in December 2022, which is a slight increase over 124 in December 2021. There were a total of 1,827 calls for service in all of 2022, which is a decrease from 2,020 calls in 2021, he said.

Hauschild said the department had a major drug bust on Dec. 21, when officers on a call on Flambeau Avenue observed drug paraphernalia and marijana and returned with a search warrant the next morning. A search resulted in discovery of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia.

“We are seeing an uptick in meth again,” Hauschild said. “We can’t stop it but we are trying to slow it down.”

Hauschild sought and received approval from the committee to seek prices on an appropriate size generator for the city hall building for its designation as a shelter. He expects that an organization that provides military grade equipment to law enforcement will find a quality used generator at no cost other than shipping.

The committee recommended full council approval of a resolution granting assignment of license and/or copyright for the Phillips Centennial book to the Price County Historical Society. The rights would revert to the city if and when the historical society were to disband.

In the Wastewater Treatment Plant upgrade report, plant supervisor Todd Toelle said the project is 98% complete and only shipping delays are preventing the finished project.

Toelle also reported that he submitted a reconstruction project funding application for Fifield and Ash streets reconstruction, which if approved in November, would make the city eligible for up to 60% project reimbursement for the 2024 project.

Preliminary work is also going ahead for reconstruction of Avon Avenue North from Maple Street to Beebe Street sometime with a target date for 2025.

The committee 4-0 approved a public hearing for the review of the city ordinance on possession and sale of hemp-derived cannabinoid substances. The approval followed a brief discussion on the need to regulate hemp-derived cannabinoid substances from products in a way that will not impact CDB businesses or ordinances.

In other business, the committee scheduled the next regular meeting for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday Feb. 7 at the city office boardroom.

Coach dismissed over TikTok video

PARK FALLS — The Chequamegon High School Girls Basketball program is on hiatus due to a player shortage that has exacerbated a separate but simultaneous matter involving the dismissal of the coach over a social media posting.

Coach Nathan Schultz said he was dismissed for the remainder of the year even though legally he was not under contract. He is still a supporter of various programs and activities and is not considered banned or fired from the school.

Chequamegon School District Administrator Kyle Cronan did not go into detail but would confirm that “Coach Schultz is no longer with the Chequamegon School District.” The girls basketball program does not currently have enough players to field a team, “and so we are adjusting the schedule,” he said.

The series of events have left Schultz “disappointed with the way things ended.” The word “scandal” has been used to describe the situation and that carries a stigma in a small town and doesn’t tell the story, he said.

The team is not playing due to a lack of players wanting to actually participate in the sport, he said. Player numbers have decreased with each season and this year there were only four players who would commit to practicing over winter break.

“Athletics at Chequamegon have struggled tremendously in the last 10 years, if not for longer than that,” Schultz said, noting there is some indifference between boy’s and girl’s athletics, which did not help him in a compromising situation.

“I took this job as the girls high school coach last year, a week before the season started, because no one else had applied,” he said. “It was a mess at that time and has never been able to recover.”

Schultz said he took part in creating the TikTok with two players from the girls team that seemed to set off some players from both of the girls and boys teams. There was nothing false in the video and it was done out of fun at the Girl’s team Christmas dinner.

“I was told that it wasn’t going to be posted, but it got posted anyway,” he said. “As soon as I knew it got posted I asked for it to be removed and it did. The damage was already done though.”

The school has a policy about employee use of personal communication devices, even though it was not his device that was used, he said.

Schultz was dismissed on Jan. 2. Since that time he has come to learn he was never under contract with the school district, even to coach, and so had no idea what policies actually apply to his situation without a signed contract. The policies regarding personal communication devices were new and he was not aware of them until researching the incident.

The second matter was that the school gave the girls team a week to find seven players and terminated the season on Jan. 9 when they weren’t produced, he said. The matter has given way to rumors that players were suspended over the TikTok matter and that is false, he said.

Plain and simple the season was terminated due to the lack of players and no one on the team has been suspended, Schultz said. He was the only person dismissed due to the PCD policy.

“I still would like to help school in every way possible even though this event has happened,” Schultz said. “In my meeting today they told me that I am welcome at any time, just that I can not coach at this time. Even if I was still able to coach I do not think the girl’s team would have enough players to make it through the season.”

A player involved in the situation said that misinformation and rumors has exacerbated the problems at school. She said coach Schultz was suspended for violating a policy that addresses threatening, humiliating, harassing, embarrassing or intimidating messages, and that she felt didn’t apply to the situation, but the school district determined that a violation occurred.

Members of the girls basketball team and others were present in making a “basketball icks” video, which is a popular trend on the app, she said. The video expressed the players “biggest icks” about basketball, which was venting on what they felt was keeping the team out of the win column.

The “icks” were meant to poke fun at themselves but the banter led to a few comments about the boys’ basketball team, which is what they feel pushed the school over the edge, along with some cursing in the video, the player said. Other coaches and parents complained, bringing the matter to the administration.

The school athletic director and principal informed the girls at a practice that Schultz was no longer the coach, and that the season was suspended as only five players stayed on board due to another situation unrelated to the video. The rumor that team members were suspended for the season for the video is not incorrect, she said.


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