(9/29/12-10:00am) UPDATE: Highway 173 has reopened to normal traffic.
(9/29/12) One person was killed and another seriously injured Friday morning when thick smoke from a wildfire led to multiple crashes on state Hwy. 173 northeast of Tomah.
According to this morning's La Crosse Tribune, the pileup began shortly after 8 a.m. when Suzanne Becker's vehicle rear-ended one driven by Melissa Mundo about a half-mile north of County Hwy. EW, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's department.
Becker and Mundo were standing in the road between their vehicles when a Ford F250 pickup truck crashed into Becker's vehicle, pushing it into the two women.
34 year-old Mundo died of her injuries. 61 year-old Becker was airlifted to Ministry St. Joseph's Hospital in Marshfield, Wis., where she was listed in serious condition Friday night.
The driver of the pickup, 57-year-old David Peiper, suffered minor injuries.
Authorities closed a 10-mile stretch of Hwy. 173 for more than three hours after the crash because of low visibility.
Crews from the Warrens Fire Department have been battling the 25- to 30-acre wildfire in the Neceda State Wildlife Refuge since Thursday with help from the Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Assistant Chief Mike Morphey said the fire was started by a hawk that got tangled in power lines.
It has been contained but is burning in peat moss, which Morphey said is very difficult to extinguish.
The crash is under investigation by the Monroe County Sheriff's Department and the State Patrol.
With that said, the Wisconsin State Patrol says firefighters are continuing to battle the blaze this morning, causing the closure of Highway 173, once again. Highway 173 is closed from Highway 21 to County Road HH. Those traveling Northbound on 173 should head Eastbound on 21 to Highway 80, then northbound back to 173 and reverse this route for southbound traffic. The State Patrol expects the closure to last over two hours this morning.