EagleHerald Staff Writer
MENOMINEE—At approximately 2 p.m. Thursday, the Superior Cedar Products lumber yard caught fire.
According to Menominee County Emergency Management, the Menominee County Central Dispatch received a call at 1:53 p.m. reporting a fire that involved a semi and a mulch grinder located at Superior Cedar Products, 43 North U.S. 41, Carney. The Nadeau Township Fire Department was on the scene within four minutes of the call, and upon arrival the firefighters found the fire had begun to spread.
The fire had spread into piles of finished mulch, raw cedar material ready for grinding, and piles of sawn wood and pallets. It continued to spread rapidly due to wind and fuel load. This prompted activation of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), a mutual assistance system used by fire departments across the state of Wisconsin and in some Michigan counties to call for help from other departments. Additional fire, EMS and law enforcement units were dispatched from cities and towns in Delta, Dickinson, Menominee and Marinette counties.
A total of 175 personnel responded to the scene with 52 pieces of fire apparatus, five EMS units and six law enforcement units. The American Red Cross and Menominee County Victims Services were also on hand to support the responders.
The fire also took the life of a Superior Cedar employee. According to WLUC, when Menominee County Sheriff’s Department deputies arrived, they attempted to locate all employees, but one was unaccounted for. After an intensive search, the employee was found on a piece of burning equipment. Law enforcement and firefighters were unable to assist the victim due to the intense heat from the fire. The individual’s name has not been released at this time.
Town of Peshtigo Fire Chief Mike Folgert, who is also the MABAS coordinator for Marinette County, said he was in contact with Josh Dessart, the MABAS coordinator in Menominee County, throughout the course of the fire. “We have pre-designated strike teams and resource lists that we dispatch from. We were able to really quickly pull together a strike team and provide some backfilling for Mellen Township, since everything there was tied up. So we had Grover-Porterfield stand by there in case something else happened,” he said.
Folgert said this fire was a great example of how the MABAS system is supposed to work. “My guys came back, and their comment was that they couldn’t believe how a Town of Peshtigo fire engine was pulling water from a drop tank that was from another department, I think Ford River, and that was being filled by another department that they’ve never heard of. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t matter what color truck you have or what patch you have on your sleeve, or even what state you’re from, we all know how to work together and we have a system in place to do just that,” he said. “As tragic as that whole incident was, from a coordination standpoint, it worked like clockwork.”
He said the Wisconsin departments got their first call around 3 p.m. and were on their way to the scene just after 4. The Wisconsin resources were released from the site at around 9 p.m. while Michigan departments stayed on for a while longer. Folgert said as far as he had been aware some firefighters were still at the lumber yard Friday morning.
The Nadeau Fire Department was unable to be reached for comment at this time.
The fire prompted Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to declare a state of emergency in Menominee County. “Right now, it is an all-hands-on-deck effort to contain the blaze to ensure that we protect life and property, and to prevent this fire from spreading further,” the governor said in a release at roughly 9 p.m. Thursday as the fire was continuing to burn. “That’s why we’re declaring a state of emergency for Menominee County to make every state resource available to help in these efforts.”
The state of emergency declaration authorizes the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division (MSP/EMHSD) to coordinate with other states that are members of the Interstate Emergency Management Assistance Compact, such as Wisconsin, to use available resources to assist if necessary. The state of emergency will end when it’s determined that the threats to public safety and property caused by the fire no longer exist and appropriate programs have been implemented to recover from its effects.