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Wis. Cleaning Up Damaged Forests Due To Fire Risk

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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BURNETT COUNTY, Wis. (WCCO) — The view from a plane above Burnett County, Wis. shows vast, green forests. But splitting many of those forests in half are paths of downed trees. They are victims of a July 1 windstorm and a potential threat for fire.

The storm covered over 130,000 acres and six counties. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says if you were to stack all the timber on a football field, it would stretch a half-mile into the sky. That’s why there is concern that this could be fuel for a forest fire.

“This part of Wisconsin is one of the highest fire prone areas in the entire state, so we are doing what we can this fall and winter to lessen that fire concern next spring,” said Bob Hartshorn of the Wisconsin DNR.

That means getting a hold of home owners and cabin owners and letting them know that if they have more than 10 acres of damage, the logging industry will pay them to remove their fallen trees. Across the river, St. Croix State Park in Minnesota was also impacted by this storm but in a different way.

“Very devastating damage there, but the difference here is we got a lot of private land. Sixty percent of this is on private lands and there’s a lot of homes and cabins intermixed in this 130,000 acres,” said Hartshorn.

The Wisconsin DNR said the storm didn’t cause serious property damage, but its 50 to 70 mile an hour winds actually did more widespread damage than a tornado that hit Siren, Wis. 10 years ago.

The storm is long gone, but what it left behind is still very much a threat.

“This concern is especially gonna be during April and May of next year, but it’s going to continue after that as well. We won’t get it all cleaned up, but we need to make progress or it could be dangerous,” said Hartshorn.

Anyone looking for help in removing trees from their property is urged to contact the Wisconsin DNR at 1-888-936-7463 or on their website.

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