MILWAUKEE — Authorities are investigating whether logging operations may have sparked a massive wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin that destroyed dozens of buildings and forced at least 60 people from their homes, state officials said Wednesday.
The wildfire has consumed about 8,700 to 9,000 acres in Douglas and Bayfield County but is about 90 to 95 percent contained, meaning firefighters have largely stopped the spread of the fire, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
No injuries have been reported in the largest forest fire to hit northern Wisconsin in 33 years, according to the DNR, and winds were expected shift from northwest to west, which could help push fire from more populated areas.
Officials were investigating whether a spark from logging equipment could have started the fire around 2:30 p.m. near Simms Lake in Douglas County, said DNR spokesman Ed Culhane said.
At least 60 people have evacuated their homes and 22 of them stayed overnight at a high school in Drummond, 60 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn., the DNR said. Forty-seven structures were destroyed, including 17 homes, but firefighters were able to save 77 other buildings, according to the DNR.
Danny Archambeau told the Duluth News Tribune Wednesday morning that he evacuated his home near Ellison Lake at 8 p.m. Tuesday. He didn't know at that time if his house had damage.
"We thought the fire was going to go north of us," he said, "but when the wind switched it came at us so fast we had to run. I grabbed my guns, my mother-in-law and my wife — in that order — and we got out."