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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Hazard Mitigation Plan Now Will Go To FEMA

Marinette County’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) finalized work on the Hazard Mitigation Plan on Monday, Sept. 30. They made a few changes to the “Critical Facilities” list in accord with input from Wisconsin DNR and the City of Marinette and pronounced it ready to be sent to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for approval. Once that approval is received it will come back to the LEPC and then go on for adoption by Marinette County Board. With the shutdown of federal government functions, LEPC members felt that might take a while.

Their work on the county’s Hazard Mitigation Plan plan has been underway for months. Each municipality in the county was asked to review its portion of the plan and list any “critical facilities” that may have been overlooked. Replies from cities and villages were essential, and all were submitted, according to Bay Lakes Regional Planning Consultant Angela Pierce. She said replies from towns were not essential, but all but a few had sent in responses anyway.

Pierce reported that only a handful of people showed up for the open house on the plan held on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 28 at the courthouse in Marinette. The draft plan, maps, and materials were available for review and comment by residents and/or landowners of Marinette County. Pierce said there were no official comments at the open house, but they did get some written suggestions from the DNR’s Division of Forestry. None of the suggestions were controversial, Pierce noted.

At the DNR’s suggestion, the term “wildfire” will be used in place of “forest fire,” which is termed in state statutes as any type of uncontrolled fire whether it is in trees, brush, marsh, field, etc., but forests and woodlands were added to the list of wildland fire hazards.

As to the probability of the hazard occurring in the future, the words “naturally occurring” were removed, so it reads, “Overall, the probability of a wildfire occurring is high for the county.”

The DNR comments noted in Marinette County, from 2005 through 2011 there were 11 structures lost to wildfires and another 111 threatened but ultimately saved by fire suppression efforts.

The plan will also mention that the WDNR responsibilities include training and providing grant assistance to volunteer fire departments and implementing memorandums of understanding. WDNR funding sources are to be listed as FFP grants and not VFA grants.

Mitigation activities proposed by the DNR included updating structural zone maps (the Marinette County Emergency Services Atlas) every five years, and this suggestion was added to the plan. Marinette County’s Land Information Office is responsible for assembling the data and the WDNR is to be responsible for printing the books.

County Board Chair Vilas Schroeder wondered if they could simply list the structures on-line rather than having printed books, but Emergency Management Director Eric Burmeister pointed out it would be hard to access that information in a fire truck.

The other addition was an admonition to reduce fuels and manage vegetation after severe weather events by acting quickly to reduce the volume of dead and down timber. Burmeister felt the Highway and Land Information Departments should be the lead agencies in this effort.

Fire education and prevention were the only other mitigation activities originally listed in the plan, and Firewise is to be promoted.

A suggestion to conduct a wildland fire/structural protection tabletop exercise followed up with a full scale exercise was not added to the plan. Burmeister said those exercises “have a huge, huge price tag.” The Peshtigo DNR office has an Incident Management Team that is required to conduct those types of exercises on a pre-set time schedule to retain their certification. If they schedule the exercise they would foot the bill for overtime for police officers, sheriff’s deputies, fire fighters, and whoever else would be involved. If Emergency Management slated such an exercise, the county would be tapped for the bill.

Burmeister said also such exercises, as well as Community Wildfire Protection Plans, are mainly applicable to specific communities, and there are grants available to communities to help pay for them.

Pierce said the Town of Silver Cliff had suggested adding the A&R Gas Pipeline to the critical facilities plan, but A&R does not want location of the pipeline identified on a map. She said Forest County did put it on their map despite the firm’s objections because “they felt strongly about having it there.” She said in any case, location of the pipeline shows clearly on aerial photos and GIS maps. The Committee decided to leave location of the pipeline off the maps, but include a description of its location in the text of the plan.

As to location of “critical facilities” in each municipality, some were without street addresses. The LEPC Committee decided that information is available in each community in any case, and they are the ones who will need the information.

At Burmeister’s suggestion, references in the plan to “shelters” will be changed to “emergency gathering centers.” He explained “shelter” generally refers to facilities set up by the Red Cross for the public to obtain food, shelter, etc. in the wake of a disaster, and advised to differentiate, they should use “emergency gathering center” to define a shelter set up by the community so they will not be held responsible for providing the ancillary services.

Mitigation strategies for Marinette County cities and villages all include “multi hazard disaster preparedness” as an ongoing responsibility to be paid for by existing annual budgets and list the municipality and the county Emergency Management and Zoning departments as responsible parties.

In addition, the City of Marinette plans on spending $38,000 to replace and maintain two outdoor emergency sirens in 2017 to 2019 and seek grants to identify, communicate nd maintain emergency storm shelters (temporary community gathering centers) in close proximity to mobile home parks in the city.

City of Peshtigo plans to spend about $10,000 in 2014 to add an automatic transfer switch for the generator at City Hall/Command Center.

The Village of Crivitz each year reviews temporary community gathering center locations at the Crivitz Village Hall and Crivitz Fire Station, with costs covered by existing annual budgets.

The Village of Pound plans to spend $50,000 in 2019 to provide a backup generator for the fire/emergency center, with the Village of Pound and Pound Fire Department listed as responsible parties.


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