Wis. firefighters injured battling blaze that nearly 'drained the city water system'

Fort Atkinson Fire Chief Daryl Rausch said crews will let the rest of the building and its contents burn out overnight


Erin Gretzinger
The Wisconsin State Journal

FORT ATKINSON, Wis. — Fort Atkinson authorities have issued an evacuation order for residents in the area surrounding a large structure fire that has injured firefighters on the scene.

The fire broke out in a warehouse at the 700 block of Oak Street in Fort Atkinson, the city's police department said.

Fire Chief Daryl Rausch said at a press conference that there have been minor injuries to firefighters due to the heat, but all individuals injured were treated at the scene or taken to a local hospital. No one was in the warehouse at the time of the fire.

Three workers in a building nearby have been accounted for, and there were no animals in a kennel next to the warehouse, city officials reported.

Rausch said crews had nearly "drained the city water system" combatting the blaze and have decided to let the rest of the building and its contents burn out. The building housed tires for military vehicles, unspecified chemicals and cans from a local canning company.

Both the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency are on-site monitoring the quality of the water and air.

Firefighters have been working on a 20-minute rotation schedule and a new crew of firefighters will take over operations at 7 p.m.

Five counties have been called to Fort Atkinson to assist with the fire and approximately 150 firefighters are at the scene, Rausch said. A task force from Illinois has also been called to the scene.

The Fort Atkinson Police Department issued a mandatory evacuation of the residents on parts of Oak Street and North Main street, which has displaced about 50 residents, Police Chief Adrian Bump said during the press conference. Those residents will likely be able to return to their homes Tuesday night.

The gym in the Fort Atkinson Municipal Building at 101 N. Main St. is open to residents who have evacuated their homes due to the fire. City officials also said residents on the North side should expect low water pressure and discolored water.

A photo of the fire from a few blocks away earlier Tuesday shows a large plume of smoke billowing from the structure. Rausch said the fire will likely burn through the night possibly into Wednesday, but crews have stopped the fire from reaching other buildings.

Due to the extent of the damage in the warehouse, Rausch said it is unlikely crews will be able to definitively determine the cause of the fire.

The city advised the public in a Facebook post to avoid the area at North Main Street and Oak Street while crews work to contain the blaze.

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(c)2021 The Wisconsin State Journal (Madison, Wis.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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