53 / 41
      64 / 40
      73 / 51

      25 years after stockyard fire

      July marks the 25th anniversary of the stockyard fire in the Stonington Peninsula.

      The stockyard fire of July 1988 started behind Rapid River High School on an ATV trail and the fire quickly spread. It burned more than 1,100 acres.

      "It traveled horizontally in the crowns of the trees above the surface of the ground. It's pretty unusual fire behavior when you see something like that...a fire going into the third dimension like that," said Jeff Noble, DNR firefighter at the time.

      The fire was unique because it happened in July after the normal wildfire season. Dry conditions fueled the blaze, and 20 minutes after it started, the fire spread across US-2 into Stonington. Residents were evacuated and scrambled to take what they could as the fire came within a few feet of houses.

      When the area began to recover, new pine growth became a concern.

      "It allowed the ceraunus pinecones after the Jack Pine to open up and disperse their seed which created a lot of Jack Pine growing together," said Joanne Sanfilippo, District Ranger, Rapid River.

      To fix the problem the forest service organized red and jack pines by spacing them out. You can see the line where new growth meets the trees missed by the blaze.

      Even though much of the area is recovered, there are still a few trees that are left standing that were killed in the fire. However, those few trees aren't all that's left; for Jeff Noble, the memory of a close call lives on.

      "I realized I couldn't get the tractor plow out quickly enough...that it was stalling. I just jumped off the tractor and ran for my life to an area that I saw wasn't on fire," Noble said.

      Despite the intensity after it started, the blaze was contained in just over a day.