TOWN OF MADGE– A garage was lost and a home saved in a fire that spread from the woods, creating a touchy firefighting situation as the fire encircled the structures.

The fire coincidentally was a perfect example of what being “firewise” can do since the space around the home was grassy and free of trees, leaving the fire no fuel to draw it closer to the home. Instead it encircled the house and spread past it.

The fire started in the woods at W3501 Harmon Lake Road in the town of Madge and was seen at approximately 4:24 p.m. It was reported as a garage on fire, and when the fire department arrived, the garage had already collapsed, the fire was burning one side of a small cabin, and a wildland fire that licked at the entrance driveway on both sides compounded the danger.

Spooner Fire Chief Darren Vik said the firefighters did something they seldom need to do: They “roll-sprayed,” using their newest pumper’s hoses to spray the fire as they drove down the driveway so they could get through to the woods and buildings.

The dilemma was whether to first attack the wildland fire or the fire near the buildings. Had the timing been a month earlier when the fire danger was higher and fuels such as grass were more combustible, Vik said the answer would have been the wildfire since it would not have been safe to be in the clear space near the house, surrounded by the fire.

The department attacked the fire near the structures and then the wildland fire.

While the house survived the fire due to the open space around it, the garage was nestled near the woods and was destroyed.

No one was home at the time.

The fire burned just under five acres, and Vik said the suspected cause was the disposal of still-hot ashes.

The fire department was on-scene for 2 1/2 hours. The Department of Natural Resources also was called to assist with its heavy equipment.

Another side of the fire

Logan Olson of Spooner had an unexpected close-up experience with the fire.

He was at the home of his girlfriend, Heidi Dougard, when they saw the nearby cloud of smoke. They drove down Harmon Lake Road and went down the trail toward the smoke, toward the cabin on the property.

They were met by a pair of 4-wheelers who said they had called in the fire. Olson drove Dougard back out and then ran back to the cabin to make sure no one was in it.

He said his grandmother died in a fire, and he wanted to make sure no one had to experience what his mother did when the fire took her mom’s life.

The wall of another cabin was on fire, and Olson found a hydrant and a metal piece which he used to try to put the fire out. He also saw the fire was heading toward the propane tank, so he tried to put out that part of the fire, too.

“It was pretty scary,” he said.

“It was unbelievably hot,” he said of the fire, and quite loud with the trees popping and crackling.

A sheriff’s deputy came down the trail, and with the fire expanding, said they needed to get out of there. The deputy drove Olson back to the road.

Olson said the fire was “nothing crazy” at first but grew significantly by the time he left.


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