DNR provides assistance after storm
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has provided valuable assistance to local and county officials grappling with the damage caused by the April 10 tornado.
According to Phil Theiler of the Area Forestry division who has been overseeing the agency’s response from a command post in the Merrill High School Auditorium, after helping the Emergency Management effort on Monday by providing critical aerial photography and assessment, it turned its attention to assisting residents with clearing timber felled by the storm.
“We want to make sure that people are not ripped off (when dealing with lumbering companies),” he said.
After the first over flights of the area, the DNR used county records and other information to compile a map that showed all the homes in the damaged areas.
“We wanted to know what property owners were affected, the extent of their damage, and what help they needed to begin cleaning up,” Theiler said.
On Saturday and Sunday the DNR used this information to coordinate clean-up volunteer crews. The volunteers reported to the auditorium where they were assigned to crews, given free tetanus shots if they desired, and then were taken to the various work sites on one of three buses donated by Peterson Busing. People who brought specialized equipment were also directed to where they could do the most good. A total of 320 people registered to volunteer on Saturday while 295 signed up on Sunday.
The DNR task force is made up of Forestry workers from several area offices along with three wardens brought in from surrounding counties.
Theiler said the amount of volunteer help that has flooded into the damaged neighborhoods since the tornado struck has made a big difference in getting the area cleaned up so rebuilding can begin. Even the nasty weather last weekend couldn’t deter people from coming to help out.
“We’ve had whole families, mother, father and kids, come in to volunteer,” he said Saturday afternoon.
Theiler the DNR has programs that can help landowners who wish to replant trees on their land. The Wisconsin Forestry Landowner Grant Program, along with expert advice from forestry experts on what kind of trees would be best, etc.
“The best thing would be for people to contact their local DNR office to see what they can do for you,” Theiler said.