A large warehouse fire in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, Tuesday forced neighbors to evacuate and sent some of the 150 firefighters battling the blaze to the hospital with heat-related medical issues.
One of the firefighters was seriously injured, suffering a severe cut as he battled the blaze, said Fort Atkinson Fire Chief Daryl Rausch. He noted the firefighter, whose name was not released, was first taken to a local hospital for treatment, then moved to UW Hospital, where he underwent surgery.
The fire at the warehouse, which stored military tires, a small amount of chemicals, cardboard and recycling products, continues to burn today with active fires reported throughout the building, Rausch reported in an update.
Rausch explained firefighters are trying to manage hot spots and stopped adding water to the building by 7 a.m. today. An estimated 250 firefighters from approximately four dozen fire departments responded to aid the primarily volunteer firefighters from Fort Atkinson.
“I think our department our volunteers as well as the volunteers and the professional departments in the area that were able to come down and help us put this fire out really shows a lot of community engagement,” said Fort Atkinson City Manager Rebecca Houseman Lemire.
“This was a pretty heroic event. Those first-end crews actually stopped this fire pretty much where we found it,” Rausch said.
Firefighters used up to 5,000 gallons a minute to extinguish the flames on Tuesday. According to Rausch, the city’s water system can only replenish approximately 2,000 gallons a minute, which led the city to warn residents of decreased water pressure and possible discoloration. The fire chief emphasized that the city was never out of water.
“We used about a million gallons of water yesterday,” Rausch said, “We created a significant run-off issue, we have pollution going all the way to the Rock River.” The Chief says they’re working to minimize that pollution by not adding anymore water to the fire.
The EPA will arrive in Fort Atkinson today to monitor for particulates and carcinogens in the air. Then, officials will decide if people nearby will need to be re-evacuated.
“As long as the weather stays as it is and the smoke column stays out of the residential areas we’re probably OK,” he said.