FORT McCOY, Wis. – The investigation of the April 12, 2023, wildland fire in the vicinity of Fort McCoy, Wisconsin, is complete.
This investigation, conducted by Department of Defense fire investigators from outside Fort McCoy concluded that the April 12 prescribed burn did not cause the fire. Additionally, the investigators could not determine if the Fort McCoy prescribed burn conducted on April 11 played a role in the wildfire.
According to the investigation, the active prescribed burn occurring on April 12 was over a mile and half away from the wildfire’s origin. While the origin has been identified as in or around McCredden’s Pass, the wildfire’s cause remains undetermined due to evidence possibly being washed away by heavy rain and snow fall in the days following the wildfire. However, it was conclusively determined that lightning, troop training, and operations have been ruled out.
The investigators found the Fort McCoy prescribed burns conducted during the time in question complied with all applicable standards required to be conducted by a federal military installation. The investigation found that prudent measures were taken to mitigate the inherent risks associated with prescribed burns. This includes:
Long- and short-term prescribed burn planning and field coordination among burn team members and outside agencies, including the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR); Weather gathering and monitoring; and Oversight and decision-making by properly trained and equipped veteran personnel with as much as 30 years’ experience.
Fort McCoy was found to have had sufficient personnel to manage the April 11 prescribed burn and took precautions to ensure no embers, smoke, or other fire hazards remained after the burn concluded. The same is true for the April 12 prescribed burn where investigators noted no safety concerns.
The incident and subsequent investigation provided a platform for Fort McCoy to improve policies and reinforce standards. For example, Fort McCoy is reinforcing the firebreak system in hard-to-access locations especially on the western boundary of the North impact area.
Fort McCoy is committed to the safety and protection of all people and property in and around the installation and surrounding communities and continues to improve procedures of the Wildland Fire Management Program.
Plans are underway to rehabilitate the areas impacted by the wildfires, such as natural and artificial regeneration of plant communities. The U.S. Army Claims Service is adjudicating claims presented by those who may have suffered damage or loss from the fire. Finally, Fort McCoy leadership will meet with the community in the upcoming weeks to discuss the findings and field questions.
From April 13 Monroe County Herald
Fort McCoy Public Officials sent out a press release around 8 p.m., on Wednesday April 12 evening regarding an out-of-control fire on base. The press release read: "We are aware of a wildfire in progress on Fort McCoy's Northeast border. Installation Officials are working with local and regional fire departments to ascertain the extent of the fire. Preventing loss of life and property damage is the main priority at this time. Local residents are encouraged to follow their local fire department direction and guidance. No further details are available at this time. More information will come as soon as its available."
At noon, on Wednesday, April 12 the Monroe County 911 Communications Center posted on their Facebook page, “It is a Red Flag Day, and all outdoor burning is prohibited. However, Fort McCoy is conducting a prescribed burn today. These controlled burns may put up a large amount of smoke in the area of their ranges. Fort McCoy Fire will be closely monitoring these fires.”
Officials say the Arcadia fire began at the north end of Fort McCoy. Some voluntary evacuations occurred. No injuries have been reported. Three structures were damaged and one shed lost.
The fire danger was at an all time high during this time. The fire consumed about 3,000 acres.
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