Ash Wausau boundary waters fireThis morning, Tuesday September 13 2011, the discernable smell of smoke could be found filling the air all around Wausau. Was it house on fire, or was someone’s fire pit still smoldering. The answer came from more than 500 miles away as a wildfire in the Boundary Waters Wildlife Area continued to burn. On August 16th, a lightning strike ignited a wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and by September 12, the fire had spread to 16,000 acres.

Wausau wi smoke smell september 13 2011

National Weather Service Satellite image of boundary waters smoke plume

Yesterday, strong winds and hot dry temperatures have caused the fire to burn and spread uncontrollably to three areas in the wilderness near Ely, Minnesota. As strong northwest winds grew overnight, the smell of smoke could be found all over North Central Wisconsin including communities of Rhinelander, Wausau, and Green Bay.

This morning in Wausau, ash from the fire was spotted along the sidewalks downtown. The skys of Wausau where hazy and yellow but the visibility is now starting to increase as patches of blue can be seen in the west and southwest.

According to the Wausau Daily Herald:

The smoke caused visibility in Rhinelander to drop to 1.5 miles and ash was seen falling in some places in northern Wisconsin, according to the weather agency.

Joseph Brauer, the director at the Rhinelander/Oneida County Airport, said cloudy skies and a lack of wind in the early morning hours trapped the smoke under the clouds and close to the ground. By 9:30 a.m., visibility improved to 10 miles, Brauer said.

The smoke smell and ash continue to affect the Wausau area today.