Apartment Fire

By: Justin Ware
By: Justin Ware

Friends and family watched and waited anxiously as their loved ones began to emerge from what, at one point, appeared to be a devastating blaze.

Around 11 a.m. flames started spreading smoke throughout the first four floors of the Riverview apartment complex, an assisted-living home with mostly elderly tenants.

"I went to the cafeteria to eat and I wasn't in there three minutes and all of a sudden the fire alarm went off in the building," said first floor resident Bill Waraksa.

For many who lived in the upper floor apartments, getting out was not that easy.

"You say, 'gee, should I go back in there and see if there's anybody who needs help?'," said 6th floor resident Allen Olson, "but there are 10 floors up there."

While fire crews rushed to evacuate the complex, stranded residents who could not make their own ways out watched from their windows while smoke poured out of the building.

Officials on the scene say the crews were able to put the fire out early enough to avoid any serious injuries, but several residents did suffer from smoke inhalation.

"The fire's out now, but there's a lot of smoke," said Wausau fire chief Gary Buchberger, "heaviest smoke was on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, so we made those evacuations first."

The displaced residents stayed in several buildings to keep warm. Many who needed medical treatment were taken to the hospital by way of ambulance or city bus.

Officials say the fire started in a first floor apartment, but they're not yet sure what caused it. The Wausau Fire Department says most of the evacuated residents are back in their homes Saturday night.