Firefighters Battle 3,900-Acre Wisconsin Blaze

BIG FLATS, Wis. (AP) -- A small brush fire quickly escalated into a 3,900-acre forest fire in central Wisconsin Thursday, forcing at least 96 people from their homes, officials said.

No one was injured, said Jennifer Rabuck, fire information officer for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

About 120 buildings, including homes, barns and sheds, were within the perimeter of the fire that followed Highway 13 in Big Flats and Colburn in rural Adams County, Rabuck said.

Fire officials were concentrating on containing and extinguishing the blaze and weren't sure how many buildings were affected, she said. Several subdivisions were burned, Rabuck said; she wasn't sure to what extent.

At least 96 people were staying at an elementary school in rural Adams County. She said others may be staying with friends or family.

By Thursday night, firefighters had about 50 percent of the fire contained and planned to work through the night to take advantage of cooler temperatures.

Rabuck said the blaze was initially reported as a small brush fire. Two planes from Wisconsin and two from Minnesota dropped water throughout the day to try to confine the flames. Eighteen area fire departments with about 250 firefighters were helping.

Many of the pine trees in the forest are used in pulpwood manufacturing, and some were 20-25 feet high, Rabuck said.