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Wisconsin won't prosecute loggers in huge wildfire

| Thursday, May 16, 2013, 9:36 p.m.

MADISON, Wis. — Prosecutors announced on Thursday they won't file charges against loggers whose equipment apparently started an enormous wildfire in northwestern Wisconsin, concluding there was no criminal intent or negligence.

The fire began on Tuesday afternoon in the woods near Simms Lake in Douglas County, about 40 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn. It consumed 8,131 acres, destroyed 17 homes and forced dozens of people to evacuate before firefighters contained it late Wednesday evening. No injuries have been reported.

The state Department of Natural Resources released a statement Thursday saying logging equipment started the fire.

A logger was operating a large machine similar to an end loader with a circular saw that cuts groups of trees, DNR Fire Law Enforcement Specialist Gary Bibow said. The operator noticed smoke coming out from under the cutting head, jumped out of the cab and saw the grass under the machine was burning.

The operator nearly had extinguished the fire when it leaped 40 yards into the trees and raced out of control, Bibow said.

“He thought he had it out and it took off,” Bibow said. “It climbed into the top of the trees.”

Another member of the logger's crew immediately called 911, according to the DNR's statement.

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