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Logging company disputes wildfire cover-up

Fire flames (properly sized)
Fire flames (properly sized)

RIB LAKE, Wis (WSAU-Wheeler News)   The logging company that's blamed for this spring's massive forest fire in northwest Wisconsin said it did not withhold information from state investigators. Earlier this week, the D-N-R ordered Ray Duerr Logging of Rib Lake to pay the $630,000 cost of fighting the blaze from mid-May in Douglas County.

The D-N-R said the company was negligent by not properly maintaining a tree-cutting machine which sparked the fire. Investigators also said they were not told until later that a fire-suppression system in the machine did not have enough water pressure to put out the initial flames. The logging company's attorney issued a statement claiming the D-N-R made quote, "inaccurate and incomplete statements," and that the firm fully cooperated with the state.

Attorney Bill Grunewald of Medford said Duerr's loggers acted quickly to put out an initial fire -- and they tried putting out a second fire, but it spread so rapidly that there was not enough time to use the pressurized water system. Grunewald said the system was tested later -- and it took far longer to activate it than the time the loggers had to control the second blaze.

D-N-R spokesman Bill Cosh says his agency stands by its investigation. The forest fire damaged 7,400 acres of woodlands, destroyed 17 homes, and caused mass evacuations for two days.

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