Loading
Search
TOP STORY

DNR stations two firefighting planes in Rhinelander amid high fire danger risksSubmitted: 05/23/2018

Play Video
RHINELANDER - As he suited up with a bit of swagger and his aviator sunglasses, all eyes were on Greg Fiss and his airplane Wednesday morning.  However, Fiss was quick to deflect the fame on the people watching him.

"They're the rock stars, we're just more visible," Fiss said of ground-based firefighters through his thick southern accent.

Fiss filled up his single-engine air tanker, or SEAT, with 800 gallons of water to show a group of DNR firefighters at Rhinelander-Oneida County Airport how he can help.  The native Kansan has flown a SEAT for 14 years, transitioning from agriculture crop dusting.


The DNR-contracted planes carry fire-slowing chemicals to drop on hot spots, flying at speeds of 185 miles per hour when fully loaded.  Fiss estimates he flies upwards of 200 firefighting missions each year.

"It's got big wings, but you've got a spot, a couple spots you can look down and see the fire pretty well," Fiss said. "And then it's pretty much just feel."

The planes' arrival mark the first time the DNR ever stationed its SEAT planes in Rhinelander. They're normally in Necedah and Siren. Bringing them to Oneida County was for good reason this week.

"This is one of the driest places in the state at this time," DNR Forest Fire Suppression Specialist Jim Barnier said.

Fire danger sits at high in Oneida and the surrounding counties, with an estimated line of "wet vs. dry" drawn from Lincoln County north.  Barnier strategically places the planes where they could be used the most, then teaches his teams how to best use them.

"Prepare them for the worst and hopefully the outcome is keeping the fires small," Barnier said.

Wednesday morning, Barnier went over tactics like "shoulder and head" and "hook and pinch" with his ground forces, stressing the planes should be used early and safely. The planes cannot drop flame retardant on people. One liquid drop covers an area 100-feet wide by 400-feet long.

"It definitely is like preparing for a battle," DNR Forestry Team Leader John Gillen said.

It's up to crew members like Gillen (who is the team leader for Oneida and Vilas counties) to decide when to call in the air support.  Gillen says he's gone on a number of forest fire calls in the Northwoods this spring, but has never called in air support.  That could change in 2018.

"[They're] a lifesaver in terms of jumping on and suppressing or containing a fire. Just helping us out," Gillen said.

The planes don't put a fire out, but can slow the spread before firefighters on the ground can even get to an active scene.  Firefighters see the SEATs as a valuable tool they hope not to need, but with a busy holiday weekend ahead, Greg Fiss knows he'll likely be spotted flying over the Northwoods soon.

"Oh yeah, it'll be a busy season. It always is," Fiss said.

The SEAT planes will be in Rhinelander until substantial rain knocks the fire danger down.  The DNR reminds you burning permits for debris fires are suspended until further notice.  It is legal to light campfires for warming or cooking, but keep water and shovels nearby.

The DNR bills whoever is found to be responsible for starting a wild fire when a SEAT plane is used to help fight that fire.


Story By: Lane Kimble

Text Size: + Increase | Decrease -
 Print Story Print Story | Email Story Email Story






 LOCAL NEWS

Play Video

HURLEY - Wayne Valliere, Sr. called Wednesday morning "a little battle" that was won. A judge found there's enough evidence to move forward in his son's homicide case. 
 
On New Year's Day, police found the body of Wayne Valliere, Jr. in a remote part of Iron County. 

Richard Allen, Joseph and James Lussier, Evan Oungst and Curtis Wolfe are all facing murder charges in the death of Wayne Valliere, Jr. 

+ Read More

LAC DU FLAMBEAU -
Tuesday afternoon Tribal Police confirmed Antonio Monserrate Roche is the man found deceased last week in Pokegama Lake.

Once the Coroner's office determines the official cause of death, the Tribal Police Department will issue an update.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - If you pop into the YMCA during the winter or walk past a tennis court in the spring or summer, you're bound to see a group playing pickleball. 

A paddle, a ball, a court, and some friends are all you need to play. 

The game first came onto Marilyn Duschl's radar about four years ago. 

"A lady came to me and said you should play pickle ball at the YMCA and I said 'what is pickle ball?'" said Duschl, the Active Older Adult Coordinator at the YMCA of the Northwoods. 

In fact, the game was a mystery to many people who have become dedicated players.

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - The combination of a hot grill and some ice-cold refreshment tempted hungry healthcare workers outside Ascension St. Mary's Hospital in Rhinelander late Tuesday morning.

"It feels great to have somebody appreciate the work that you do," Oneida County EMT Leah Foster said.

The Ascension Spirit team cooked up a free brat lunch (with donated Trig's Somkehouse brats) for any emergency medical service workers who wanted to eat.  Spirit's lunch was part of National EMS week, giving the medical transport provider the chance to say 'thank you' to the workers they call heroes.

+ Read More

Play Video

MINOCQUA - A big tour bus with C-SPAN's logo on the side pulled into Lakeland Union High School on Tuesday.

The public affairs network arrived to help celebrate the work of students at the school. Four students were recognized for their winning projects in C-SPAN's Student Cam contest.

That contest drew 3,000 video entries.

"The fact that we had two groups of students winning here from Lakeland Union High School is pretty much a big deal," said C-SPAN Marketing Representative Shannon Augustus. "We're super happy to be here in Wisconsin."

+ Read More

Play Video

RHINELANDER - Some people need to rely on movies and books to learn about certain parts of history.
One Wisconsin Vietnam veteran wanted to make sure that wasn't the case for Rhinelander middle school students.

Paul Miller spoke at James Williams Middle School Tuesday.He was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1967.
Miller said he wanted to share his experience and how the war impacted him. He doesn't want that part of history to be forgotten. 

+ Read More

Play Video

TOMAHAWK - Natalie Reimert is learning real world skills inside a greenhouse outside Tomahawk Middle School. 

"[We learn] how to take care of them [and] how to grow them from the little tiny seeds to what we get on our dinner plates," said Reimert, who's a seventh grader. 

+ Read More
+ More Local News
Search: 








Click Here