Duck Lake Fire emergency coordinator: ‘It looks like Hiroshima’

Duck Lake Fire emergency coordinator: ‘It looks like Hiroshima’

29 May 2012

published by

USA — A key Duck Lake Fire official likens a section of the fire along Lake Superior to Hiroshima.

Terry Stark, Luce County emergency management coordinator, talked of one family’s cabins that lined a bluff overlooking the big Lake and said, “There’s nothing left. It’s not like the typical house fire where part of the structure is left. There’s just nothing.”

Meanwhile, the fire gained ground on Monday, marked by high winds, low humidity and high temperatures. Containment went from 51 percent to 47 percent, reported the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Stark started out last Wednesday rushing people out of their homes as the fire started blowing up north of Newberry and west of Tahquamenon Falls State Park. “There were people who left with nothing,” he said.

The past two days he’s focused on taking evacuees back into the Pike Lake and Little Lake Harbor area of the fire zone to show them their homes – or what’s left of them. Each homeowner was given 15 minutes to survey their property.

“That’s the most difficult part – the landowners and their losses. Myself and two other drivers are taking people back to their homes, whether it’s good or bad. They had to get back and see.”

Homeowners had forewarning on what they might encounter. Stark had crews assess the damage and take pictures. Families one by one on Sunday were shown what was left. A lot of tears were shed, and Stark said the experience was emotionally draining.

Those whose homes survived could go in and grab what they needed – mostly medicines and a change of clothes, he said.

“That operation has been pretty well completed,” Stark said, adding that only evacuees are being allowed in. He hasn’t even seen his own deer camp in the fire zone.

He acknowledged that the rumor mill about looting is working on overtime, and said the rumors are unfounded.

Stark said it’s been fairly non-stop since the fire exploded, now estimated at 21,694 acres. “I’m working on about an eighth of a brain now,” he laughed tiredly.

The fire is still active, and keeping emergency crews on their toes. That’s not the only problem: On Sunday, a National Guard helicopter experienced a mechanical failure and lost its bucket in Bone Lake. Divers are working today to recover the bucket.

The bucket loss came the day before a strong aerial attack was needed on that problematic swampy south sector of the fire.

The Duck Lake Fire made two serious runs last night, crossing the fire line in at least one place.

A DNR release stated:

“The fire area experienced very strong winds Monday afternoon, causing a blowup on a portion of the fire that forced firefighters to retreat to their safety zones in order to allow air support to drop water on the area. As thunderstorms approached the area, the aircraft had   to leave and ground crews had to temporarily take shelter from the storms. Afterward, crews were able to take advantage of the rain that arrived on the heels of the blowup to make progress in fire suppression efforts. Fire crews were able to construct additional line in Divisions D and G yesterday, and hope to link up today.”

The south end of the fire is 14 miles north of Newberry and 7 miles west from Tahquamenon. It stretches a long and narrow 11 miles to Lake Superior, with 40 miles of fire line (6 of which is Lake Superior shoreline).

The latest estimate on damage shows 99 of 134 properties in the fire zone have been inspected, and 39 have suffered losses. Ninety-seven buildings have been lost – cabins, garages, and even one motel and its store at Rainbow Lodge.

The good news: Up to three-quarter inches of rain fell on the fire late yesterday, and there’s a chance of showers today. Winds will be west to northwest at 7 to 10 miles per hours, with gusts to 20 miles per hour.

Also from the DNR release:

“An evacuation order remains in effect for the area from Pike Lake east to County Road 500 and north to Little Lake Harbor.

County Road 414 east from the intersection with County Road 410 and County Road 500 from M-123 north to Little Lake Harbor are closed. Please do not enter the area. All road closures remain in effect until further notice. No road reopening schedule has been determined due to ongoing fire issues and aircraft suppression efforts.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park’s lower falls campground, upper falls viewing area and visitor center have been closed due to smoke concerns. Please do not visit the park.”

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