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      Duck Lake Wildfire anniversary

      More than 21,000 acres of forest turned to ash, and 136 structures were lost. The Duck Lake Wildfire burned from late May to mid-June 2012. No lives were lost, but some lost their livelihoods. Few lost more than Richard and Kathy Robinson, owners of the Rainbow Lodge. "I mean, it was a heck of a firestorm. I've never seen anything like it, and I hope never to see anything like it again," said Richard Robinson. The fire consumed his home and business early on. On Thursday, May 24, 2012, he was preparing for a busy Memorial Day weekend when word came of a nearby wildfire. He evacuated to a neighbor's house further away. "We figured we were only going to be gone for a couple days because the fire was quite a bit to the west," Robinson said. Hours later, the fire exploded out of control and caught up to Robinson. He remembers seeing the red glow above the trees. "The smoke was pretty thick. You could only see about 20 feet," Robinson said. It was then that he knew the Rainbow Lodge wouldn't survive. "This was the cafà and the store," Robinson said, pointing to now flat and empty spaces. He and his wife returned after the area had burned down a few days later. Seeing the charred remains for the first time was something he'll never forget. "Really heart-wrenching...just kind of unbelievable, you know?" Robinson said. Surrounding what was once his home are dead trees like skeletons of the forest. Blackened dead trees litter the landscape, and beneath them, their ashes still visible in the April snow. At the lodge, a few cabins remain. Robinson says he was amazed to find anything that survived, but it was thanks to the fire suppression efforts. "This is where the water from the water bomber stopped the fire from burning these cabins up," Robinson said, showing a clear line between burned and intact fencing. Keith Magnusson of the Newberry Department of Natural Resources field office was on the front lines since day one of the fire. Now he is working on helping the forest regenerate. "The forest does recover, and Mother Nature has adapted to fire," said Magnusson. Magnusson says the DNR will be implementing recovery efforts in a matter of weeks. He says the forest will never look the same, but it will be green again. The future of the Rainbow Lodge is much less certain. "We're in the process of trying to sort out the insurance and our plans of what we want to do. We're taking our time because we're not being rushed," Robinson said. On Facebook, the Robinsons recently announced that they will definitely be rebuilding the Two Hearted Chapel.