Limited damage after fire at Pukall LumberSubmitted: 07/09/2013
Story By Lex Gray

ARBOR VITAE - A fire at Pukall Lumber last Wednesday didn't slow the company down.

No one worked Thursday and Friday, but that was because of Independence Day, not because of the fire. Now, everything but the paneling shop is up and running.

"The fire started right here at our chipping operation, we chip scrap up and blow it into our silos," said vice president Rick Wilson. "There's some foreign object, we think, that got into our chipper that created a spark and started the fire."

Wilson can't remember the last time they had a fire like this.

"We had an employee who noticed some smoke coming out of the top of the building and when we got to the fire, it was already quite large," he said. "We did what we could with the fire extinguishers until the fire department came."

Arbor Vitae fought the fire along with five other departments. Firewalls helped, too.

"The building is really not a total loss," Wilson said. "This is one corner of a very large building. The firewalls did their job and we were able to limit this fire to this one section."

Wilson guesses the damage here will probably run about half a million dollars.

"This building is only paneling and flooring operation. It's a minor part of our business, so overall, we will rebuild it, but it won't have a significant impact on our operation."

Wilson says a fire in any other part of the building would have done millions of dollars' worth of damage. He's also grateful for a quick response.

"I want to thank all the local volunteer fire departments," he said. "They did a great job, they responded quickly and they were very professional."

The panel shop will take at least a few months to rebuild.

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MERRILL - This weekend Northcentral Technical College hosted its fourth annual Fire and EMS University for firefighters across Wisconsin.

It provides training on firefighting and EMS techniques at the Public Safety Center of Excellence in Merrill.

In a simulation training exercise, firefighters have their hoods covering their face so they couldn't see anything when they entered a basement. They had to feel a fire hose and use teamwork to get around and save a dummy.

Firefighters from all over Wisconsin can come to the all-day event. They came to refresh their skills, teach and learn new techniques.

"We put out some classes that are very interesting and not run every day and if it applies to their department they'll send people," said Dean of the Public Safety Division of Northcentral Technical College Doug Jennings.

The school keeps adding other training tools as well. Just this year they added more training features, such as a simulator that allows law enforcement to practice driving trucks, squad cars and EMS vehicles.

On Saturday the students also trained with the aerial ladder.

"We are the only fire department in Lincoln County with an aerial ladder," said Merrill Fire Chief Dave Savone. "And so most of our firefighters have to operate our aerial ladder. And so we felt this truck operation aerial ladder operations is a great class for them to come and see."

UST Fire Apparatus brought a new aerial ladder truck for the students to practice with, and teachers from southern Wisconsin and St. Louis, Mo., also came to help coach.

Firefighters say they want to constantly re-educate themselves.

"It's great to get the extra practice," said Dean Johnson from the Town of Wausau Fire Department.

Northcentral Technical College also offers semester schedule curricula for law enforcement and fire science. 

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MERRILL - Merrill residents might have heard a lot of music in town today.

Merrill High School hosted the Merrill Marching Invitational. Three high school marching bands took over the football field at Merrill High School Sunday.

Antigo, D.C. Everest, and Merrill high schools all showcased their musical creativity.

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MILWAUKEE - A published report says unauthorized improvements have been made to a footpath on state land that a donor to Gov. Scott Walker has been trying to buy.

A spokesman for business executive Elizabeth Uihlein acknowledged that workers at her adjoining property may have cleaned up the trail slightly.

But the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/1Z18WU8 ) reports those who have seen the trail say the improvements are significant.

Uihlein is seeking to buy 1.75 acres along Rest Lake, where the footpath is located. But a tentative deal with the Department of Natural Resources was put on hold after critics raised questions.

A DNR spokesman says the agency inspected the site on Thursday and found an "established trail." He declined to say whether the department had talked to Uihlein or her representatives.

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EAGLE RIVER - Eagle River hosted its 36th annual Cranberry Fest during October's first weekend.

Organizers say the weather this year brought in many more visitors.

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NEKOOSA - People in Nekoosa could go back in time this weekend.

Volunteers at Pointe Basse recreated a historical camp that portrayed the lives of people from the 1700s and early 1800s.

Volunteers from all across the U.S. had a piece of history to share.

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RHINELANDER - Harvest Hoedown started Saturday at noon at the Woodpecker Bar and Grill in Rhinelander.

The event featured a hay maze, horse-drawn carriage rides, food, and live music all afternoon.

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TOWN OF NEWBOLD - Dreams of a world-class disc golf course and recreation area could soon become reality.  On September 26, people in the Town of Newbold voted to buy about 18 acres of land currently owned by Oneida County.

The land, about a half mile off Highway 47 along Ole Lake Road, was the site of an old landfill that the DNR closed in July 1988. The site has been empty ever since.

Buying the land would essentially double the space Newbold already owns for its planned recreation area.

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