Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.
CHIPPEWA FALLS — Betty Christopherson stood outside her apartment unit in Chippewa Falls on Thursday, stunned as she stared at the damage caused by a fire Wednesday afternoon.
Christopherson, who has lived in her apartment for the past 13 years, was home at 2:10 Wednesday when the fire alarms went off.
“It was so loud. I thought it was a drill,” Christopherson said. However, she quickly realized it was a serious situation and got outside, in time to see the blaze coming from a second-floor window.
“The flames were shooting out,” she said. “Then the windows exploded. It was something, and it was so hot. It was just unbelievable. I’d never seen anything like it.”
Neighbors from nearby apartment complexes brought out water for the displaced residents.
“I’m just glad everyone got out,” she said.
The damaged building is located at 807 Bridgewater Ave. The complex features 24 apartments in three eight-apartment pods. The eight apartments in the middle pod are all unlivable at this time, said Chippewa Falls Fire Chief Lee Douglas. The unit where the fire began is destroyed, Douglas said, and the other seven units in that pod suffered smoke and/or water damage.
However, those in the wings of the building, including Christopherson, were able to return to their units later that day.
Douglas said that 28 firefighters responded to the scene, including assistance from Chippewa Fire District, Anson Fire and Bloomer Fire. When firefighters arrived, evacuation was already taking place, and the building had heavy smoke and fire.
“We confirmed everyone was out of the 24 apartments,” Douglas said. “We ventilated the roof to stop the lateral spread (to nearby units). It was a good win for us. Damage was contained from the fire.”
Douglas echoed Christopherson’s comments that the heat of the day presented some challenges, and he was thankful that Bloomer brought equipment that allowed firefighters to cool off. Firefighters had to return to the scene later in the day because of smoldering in a wall.
The preliminary investigation states that a grease fire on a stove caused the blaze, Douglas said. One person was transported to a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation; Douglas didn’t have an update on that person’s condition.
The American Red Cross announced it is helping six residents displaced by the fire with temporary lodging and immediate needs.
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