County Road E was closed for nearly four hours last week Friday as firefighters from nine departments battled a structure fire in the town of Ripon from about 6:30 a.m. to a little after 10 a.m.
Although no one was injured in the fire, which was potentially caused by an unattended portable heater, several tractors, a truck and a gravity box were damaged in the blaze, according to Ripon Area Fire District Deputy Chief Mark Sabel. He noted the building and all its contents were lost.
When Ripon Area Fire District responded to the structure fire at N9254 County Road E, Sabel said responding units saw a large black plume of smoke.
Upon arrival, Sabel noted they found the pole building on the property was “fully involved,” meaning fire, heat and smoke were so widespread that internal access had to wait until fire streams could be applied.
“The roof was partially collapsed and all the walls were glowing red,” he said. “Our rapid response unit provided protection to exposures of a garage right next to the pole building on fire.”
Due to limited space in the fire area, Sabel noted that 700 feet of large diameter hose was laid from the road to the engine by the pole building, while a fire engine from Brandon pumped water from the road to the Ripon engine down by the pole building.
“We had automatic aid from the city of Fond du Lac with an engine and a chief; Brandon/ Fairwater with an engine, chief and a tender; Markesan with a truck, tender and a chief and Princeton with an engine and a chief,” he said. “Due to the frigid weather crews would work for 20 minutes and then go to rehab to warm up. All manpower from the auto aid departments was used to fight the fire.”
He added the weather combined with cold temperatures made fighting the fire difficult because water was freezing quickly.
“We had to keep flowing water so the hoses and nozzles did not freeze,” Sabel said.
Due to the large amount of fire, he noted additional tenders from Berlin, Rosendale, Utica and Alto were called to assist the Ripon Area Fire District.
“We also had assistance from Alliant Energy, Ripon Guardian Ambulance, Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office, town of Ripon Police and town of Ripon road crew,” Sabel added.
He noted fire crews were on scene until 10:15 a.m. and County Road E was closed from the start of the fire until fire crews cleared the scene “for the protection of everyone as the fire was on a curve and [because] the roads were congested and would become icy from all the water we were bringing to the scene.”
While the fire is suspected to have been caused by an unattended heater, Sabel added that it remains under investigation.
“With the cold temperatures we are experiencing we recommend that no portable heaters be left unattended,” Sabel said. “They must be checked often to ensure everything is functioning correctly, and nothing is overheating.
“The area around the heater including in front of the heater [should] be clear of anything that could possibly catch on fire.”