MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Investigators say a large wildfire caused by logging operations in northwestern Wisconsin wasn’t intentionally set and criminal charges aren’t expected.  The Department of Natural Resources said Thursday that negligence wasn’t involved in the blaze, which destroyed 17 homes and forced dozens of people to evacuate before it was contained Wednesday night.  The DNR says a logging equipment operator noticed smoke coming from the equipment while harvesting timber Tuesday afternoon. The operator unsuccessfully tried to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher while another operator called 911.  No injuries have been reported from the fire, which charred more than 8,000 acres.  The fire started near Simms Lake in Douglas County, 40 miles southeast of Duluth, Minn.   The DNR says Douglas County prosecutors don’t plan to file any criminal charges.
Bob Gotelaere thought he could outrace the wildfire bearing down on his northwestern Wisconsin home.   The retired police officer had fled the house hours earlier after authorities warned him to evacuate, but he wanted to save antique guns from his grandfather and his daughter’s needlepoint work. So he and his buddy threaded their way along the back roads to reach the house on Ellison Lake.        Then the wind shifted. The fire – one of the worst to strike northern Wisconsin in three decades – came roaring toward them in a soup of orange smoke.  “There were flames all around the house. The embers were coming down in the yard. You couldn’t see because of the smoke. (His friend) was screaming at me, ‘we’ve got to go, we’ve got to go,”‘ the 67-year-old Gotelaere said. “It was unreal.” They barely made it out, Gotelaere said Thursday, shortly after firefighters contained the blaze that destroyed 17 homes and 30 other structures as it swept across 9,000 acres.