More Northwoods crews head West as national fire problem growsSubmitted: 08/16/2013
Story By Lyndsey Stemm

RHINELANDER - Wildfires out west grew by nearly 50 percent in the past week. The state of Wisconsin has sent more than 300 crew members to help this month alone.

We showed you a crew leaving Woodruff last week for California. Another crew left Woodruff this morning. The 20 person team will go to Montana to fight a fire that started two days ago.

The wildfire situation nationwide is classified on a scale of one to five. Right now the country is at a four.

But that will likely bump up to the highest rating, a five, this weekend. That means we've used 80% of our national resources to fight fires across the country.

"Eighty percent of resources is made up of various equipment from bulldozers to helicopters to personnel to engines," says Jim Grant, from the U.S. Forest Service.

States won't send out all the resources they have. Each state holds back the minimum resources it would need for its own fire threat level.

When the country reaches level five, the military might have to help.

"The activation of the military comes from the president ultimately. When they're activated, it could be any branch of the military, but typically we see the United States Army, and even the Marines a lot of times, involved in this. Before they're put on the fire lines they're given training courses. They're given the basic training courses they need to continue to be safe out there before we put them on the lines," says Grant.

Right now there are $15,000 firefighters on the ground in 14 states. They're battling 40 large fires. To even be considered a large fire, thousands of acres have to be burning.

The fire season could last through October.

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MERRILL - People know Helene's Hilltop Orchard in Merrill as the place to go to get your fall season fix.

The pie makers and apple peelers come in early to crank out caramel apple pies fresh throughout the day.

When people come to Helene's, they are usually greeted by the smell of the pies before they even see them.

"I love being out in the parking lot when people step out of their cars and smell the air. It doesn't smell like a lot of other farms. It's distinctly the cinnamon sugar you smell," said Helene' Hilltop Orchard baker Olivia Telschow.

Helene's is only open for six weeks from mid-September to late October; however, Telschow works alongside her mother Helene throughout the entire year.

Even in the winter, the apple orchard is checked on.

"February is pruning season. Think of me when it's minus ten and it's snowing and windy and snow drifts because I will be out there," said Telschow.

The orchard is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October 30th.

Helene's will close Sunday for the season, but pies will be available to order for Thanksgiving.

Call (715) 536-1207 for more information.

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MADISON - Even with higher fees, plenty of people want to camp in state parks.

Wisconsin state park use this year is on track to be higher than average, despite fee increases that were imposed to offset the withdrawal of tax support.

The number of camping registrations and nights camped in 2016 through Friday was greater than in any year since 2008 except for last year's record.

This year, there have been nearly 160,000 camping registrations and more than 386,000 nights camped for state parks, recreation areas and southern forests.

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MADISON - The state Natural Resources' board will soon vote on selling another 3,500 acres of public land.

A measure included in the state budget ordered the DNR to sell 10,000 acres by the middle of next year.

Money raised will help pay down debt in the agency's land stewardship program.

The Natural Resources board approved putting about 1,400 acres up for sale in 2014.

Another 5,700 acres went up for sale this past February.

The board should vote Wednesday in Madison on whether to put a final 93 parcels totaling just over 3,500 acres up for sale.

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MILWAUKEE - The trade deal known as the Trans Pacific Partnership has taken a pounding on the presidential campaign trail. But, at least one group is holding out hope for the pact - Wisconsin dairy producers

They see nothing but advantages from a deal that could increase exports at a time when their cows are producing more milk than ever in an over-saturated domestic market.

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RHINELANDER - New moms know how difficult it can be to adjust to life with a newborn baby.

A group in the Northwoods wants to stress the importance of understanding baby behavior and making society comfortable with breastfeeding.

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WAUSAU - It can take a big name and a well-known face to get people excited about signing up for a group.  As part of its revitalization drive, Wausau's American Legion Post 10 got a visit from a name you might not recognize, but one that veterans groups know is an honor to host.

American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt stopped by the Wausau post Tuesday morning. It was the first visit by a national commander ever at Wausau's Post 10.

Schmidt says the same issues veterans faced when the Legion formed in 1919 -- healthcare, jobs, and education -- still exist in 2016.

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RHINELANDER - The finishing touches of Rhinelander's Downtown Streetscape project will include painting crosswalks, removing traffic gates, and completing sidewalks. Planting dozens of trees downtown will also help the city finish the major project.

Nationwide, "Arbor Day" falls in late April. But the city proclaimed Tuesday Arbor Day in Rhinelander.

It's a recognition of the importance trees play in finishing the streetscape project and in Rhinelander as a whole.

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