Emergency warning issued on French Island

Poor air quality prompted a 'Shelter in Place' Warning

The smoke from the fire at Omaha Tracks put a lot of toxins into the air, in French Island.  Crews issued a “shelter in place” advising everyone to stay inside. This was the second “shelter in place” issued in  La Crosse County area in eight months. They are typically issued by a fire chief, when air quality is poor.

“In some cases they take air monitoring and measure what’s in the air around and often it’s just visual,” said Keith Butler the emergency coordinator for La Crosse County. “They ask ‘What kind of smoke is it? Is it white smoke or is it the heavy dark smoke?’ officials know how to interpret that and what is the impact to the community.”

Emergency officials issued a “shelter in place” for French Island at around 5 a.m. That alert was broadcast by local radio stations and television for three hours, local fire departments even called area business to spread the word, but because the emergency was so early a lot of people had no idea anything was going on.

“I smelled something when I went out to get the paper, which was about the extent of it,” said Dale Wetterling, who lives on French Island.

Fire departments had better luck alerting local businesses by calling them directly.

“We received from the Town of Campbell a “shelter in place” warning at that point we decided just for the safety of our guest and co-workers we would close down until that warning was lifted,” said Brad Siems, an assistant store leader at Kwik trip.

The warning lasted for three hours. During a “shelter in place” residents are supposed to stay indoors in a small room with few windows. However, it is different from a weather emergency, residents do not have to go to a lower level.