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Menominee warehouse fire officially out

This story has been updated.

MENOMINEE—The Menominee Fire Department on Friday announced the fire is out at Resolute Forest Products/KK Integrated Logistics, 701 4th Ave.

The announcement was made in a press release from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has been the lead agency in providing information from Unified Command.

The fire started shortly before 11 p.m. on Oct. 6. It burned strong for several days eventually slowing down, but hot spots persisted for much of the next two weeks.

“After a thorough examination by on-site personnel and thermal imaging by drone, no hot spots or fire were found,” according to Friday’s statement. “The fire department met with the property owners who felt comfortable taking responsibility for the site. During the course of material removal over the next week, additional hot spots are probable. The fire department has developed a plan to respond back to the scene if/when the hot spots are encountered.

Menominee Fire Chief Mark Petersen, at a Thursday press conference, said he thought the fire would be completely suppressed on Saturday.

The release states the fire department is in the process of cleaning and removing equipment from the scene. Sixty-eight fire departments from Michigan and Wisconsin assisted with the fire over the 16-day period. Next steps include debris and firefighting water removal from the site.

Air monitoring will continue at the site during the debris removal. EPA will discontinue air monitoring in the community now that the fire is out.

The multi-agency response team will continue water sampling and evaluating the results. All final, validated data will be posted to the website: response.epa.gov/menomineewarehousefire. If future sampling shows results above state health based or regulatory standards, further action will be taken, and residents will be notified immediately.

KKIL owns the warehouse, while Resolute, Tyco Fire Products and Chem Design leased space. Seventy five percent of the 560,000 square foot warehouse was destroyed. Chief Petersen said the warehouse was filled with bales, scrap paper and pulp piled over 10 feet high.

All companies have said they will rebuild.

KKIL president Cynthia Kuber, also at Thursday’s press conference, talked about the massive water containment effort and what the future holds She said nine vacuum trucks and more than 125 portable tanks that can hold about 2 million gallons of recovered water were utilized.

An on-site containment pond was constructed in one day with a capacity of more than 3 million gallons of recovered water, Kuber said. Three more containment pools have been or will be built.

More than a half mile of linear feet of containment berms were constructed around the fire site and debris, she said.

“Water contained by the berms is then vacuumed out with the vac trucks and stored either in the above ground containment pools or portable storage tanks all awaiting treatment,” Kuber explained, adding that more than 7 million gallons of fire water has been contained “preventing it from entering into our river.”

She said more than 12,000 metric tons of scrap paper and pulp have been removed from the site.

“It’s been a fabulous effort of collaboration,” she said.

Kuber said Resolute is committed to rebuilding and remaining in Menominee. She said operation at the pulp mill is expected to resume soon. Resolute employs about 100 workers in Menominee and all have been paid during this disaster, she said.

“KKIL, our business partners and our families, personally, are committed to our community,” Kuber said. “We plan to rebuild on the site. The involved businesses and partnerships will move forward and continue. The jobs will return and we will build a state-of-the-art modern warehouse in support of our industrial partners.”

Kuber described her feeling when she first was notified of the fire the night of Oct. 6. “It was gut wrenching,” she said. “It’s a terrifying feeling and the first thought that always goes through your mind is, ‘is everybody OK’ and everybody was throughout the entire process.”

Kuber said a warehouse can be built in six months, but a lot depends on how quickly supplies can be obtained.

Petersen called the fire “a nightmare” and said no other fire he has fought comes close to the scope of this catastrophe. He added that his crews have been “awesome” working 12 hours on, 12 hours off for two weeks and some rest is needed once they see it through.

The fire remains under investigation and a cause has not been determined. There were no injuries or deaths.

All previous press updates, documents, photos and more can be found at: response.epa.gov/menomineewarehousefire.

Dan Kitkowski can be reached by email at dkitkowski@eagleherald.com


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Menominee culinary class finds temporary kitchen at Bethel Lutheran Church

MENOMINEE—The culinary arts teacher braids the doughy strands of puff pastry over her apple crumble as the glow of a projector light beams onto her face. The students onscreen are as equally transfixed on the apple strudel as her in-person class, numbering about 13, depending on who can get rides to class.

For Vicki Duffield, the anticipation was only building. The high school culinary class was hovering a day away from its first-ever Oktoberfest, a makeshift event to give her students a way to practice larger-scale cooking, despite school being closed until January.

In August, Menominee High School was damaged by flooding, eliminating their face-to-face meeting space for culinary arts class, which to Duffield, doesn’t feel like work at all, she said. Job or no job, she needed to find solutions for her students.

“I did this as soon as I heard we were going to be virtual,” she said, standing in the kitchen of Bethel Lutheran Church, 1309 14th Ave., Menominee, smells of bacon perfuming the tightly-packed room. “Grades are better when students are in person. We all miss the classroom and working with each other.”

The culinary arts teacher—beloved among her students—said her paraprofessional, Kitti Eland, called and asked the church if they could use the space to resume cooking classes for about 80 students. Duffield teaches Monday through Friday, but they open the kitchen on Wednesdays and Thursdays, where she teaches in-person and virtually at the same time.

As she speaks, classmates show off their class T-shirts that say “Butter & Garlic Are My Best Friends” and “Culinary Gangster.” In the background, the radio relaxes any tension from peeling too many apples or adding brown sugar to the strudel recipe at the wrong time.

Bags are lined up along the entryway tables, filled with ingredients for this week’s lesson, which revolves around Oktoberfest, an autumn festival held in Germany. Duffield assembles the bags with her paraprofessionals and delivers them to students’ homes who can’t attend because they can’t drive yet.

When Bethel Lutheran Church Pastor Scott Ehle got the call from Eland, he said the situation was a no-brainer.

“Inviting the culinary class was a lot of fun,” he said. “They send meals our way a few days a week, so that’s been great. Our church smells good.”

That’s not the only class, either. He said the cosmetology class is taking up the Sunday school rooms.

“Hopefully, it doesn’t just have to be when there’s a disaster at the school. They’re welcome at any time during the week in the future,” he said. “If there’s a partnership going forward, we’d be open to that.”

Duffield stands with Eland and paraprofessional Airi Bayerl as she talks about other community support.

“It’s amazing when you start reaching out how many people want to help,” Duffield said.

Zion Lutheran Church, 2714 James St., Marinette, gave them a grant for $2,500 on Wednesday.

“Our community is awesome,” she said.

McDonald’s, 1232 10th Ave, Menominee, let the group use its walk-in fridge as storage for Oktoberfest since the church had two fridges, but they filled up fast. The class also recently put out a call for donated utensils from the community. Now, they’re fully equipped but are always asking for donations.

Well, almost fully equipped. Eland said she had to stop in the kitchen to grab her mixer last week. She wanted to make chocolate chip cookies. It’s happened before, too.

“My husband asked me, ‘Where’s the immersion blender?’ And I said ‘...Church.’”

Their next event is the Brats for Breakfast on Nov. 17 from 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. outside Andy’s Ace Hardware, 1307 8th Ave., Menominee.

The culinary arts class is also selling the apparel they designed, starting at $20, with funds going toward an annual hospitality end-of-year field trip. If you’d like to purchase items on their Amazon wish list, visit https://amzn.to/3eGCCbp.

Erin Noha can be reached by email at enoha@eagleherald.com


Peshtigo’s Andrew Nelson (123) paces Antigo’s Logan Higgins in the early stages of Saturday’s WIAA Sectional meet. The two were the final two individuals to qualify for the WIAA State Championship meet with Nelson finishing 7th and Higgins 8th overall.


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