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Residents return home after Fort Atkinson warehouse blaze

Fort Atkinson fire chief reports the building is a total loss.
Firefighters respond to a large fire in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, on August 10, 2021.
Firefighters respond to a large fire in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, on August 10, 2021.(Submitted)
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 12:46 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (WMTV) - A large warehouse fire in Fort Atkinson is sending a plume of black smoke high into the air over the city.

The blaze broke out at an industrial park, in the 700 block of Oak St. It is not yet known which business or businesses may be affected.

The City of Fort Atkinson urged people in a Facebook post to avoid the area near N. Main Street and Oak St.

Residents who live nearby the industrial park were urged to shelter in place Tuesday night and keep their windows closed. The Fort Atkinson Police Department says the winds keep changing, which is changing the direction of smoke.

City officials reported that emergency crews from five counties have responded to assist, with around 150 firefighters on scene. The heat Tuesday forced firefighters to work in 20-minute rotations.

ATTENTION: Avoid North Main Street and Oak Street for a structure fire going on in that area. All residents in the...

Posted by City of Fort Atkinson, WI on Tuesday, August 10, 2021

In a news conference, Fort Atkinson Fire Chief Daryl Rausch stated that there was a few minor firefighter injuries, but all were taken to a local hospital or treated on scene. No one was inside the warehouse that started on fire at the time of the incident.

There were three workers inside a nearby facility that had already been accounted for and no dogs were inside a nearby Kennel Club, the City of Fort Atkinson stated.

Officials also told people who live near the industrial park that they should consider evacuating and businesses were also encouraged to evacuate. Additionally, all residents on the north side of the city should expect low water pressure and discolored water as crews battle the blaze.

Residents are expected to be able to return to their homes later Tuesday night, Fort Atkinson Police Chief Adrian Bump stated.

For those who are still affected and need a safe place to go, a spokesperson for the American-Red Cross Wisconsin Region said it opened a reception center at Frist United Methodist Church on 320 South Main Street. Volunteers gave snacks, water and comfort for those who had been displaced.

The Red Cross sent an update around 8:45 p.m., saying it was closing the site at First Methodist Church and that emergency management gave approval for people to go back to their homes.

Authorities have not determined the cause of the fire yet, but stated they will likely not have a definitive cause because the building was a total loss.

Rausch and Bump said the severe weather expected Tuesday night will not affect the outcome of the fire. They expect to bring in new groups of law enforcement and first responders around 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Crews also said they have used most of the city’s water supply, noting they pumped around 2,000 gallons per minute into water towers, but it still dropped to 15 feet in three hours.

“We’ve drained the city water system,” said Chief Rausch. “We’ve elected to let the balance of the building burn out.”

If other fires happened in the city, Rausch said they would call in tankers and task forces from surrounding areas to help.

Another news conference will be held on Wednesday morning to update the community on the fire operations.

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