CHIPPEWA FALLS — John Andersen, deputy chief of fire prevention, has served in the Chippewa Fire District since it was formed in 1978, and he’s seen plenty of challenging fires. Andersen says the blaze at The View tavern on Lake Wissota on Tuesday might be the most challenging in his four decades of service.
“This is probably the worst weather conditions I’ve been in,” Andersen said Wednesday morning, noting he was at the scene for 12 hours on Tuesday, then returned overnight to assist in extinguishing more small fires that kept popping up.
“We had five people overnight, just putting out hot spots,” he said. “It’s almost like playing ‘whack-a-mole’ in fighting a fire. It’s the best analogy I can come up with. You think you got it, then you don’t.”
Besides the snow, there was a steady wind, which provided oxygen to the flame, helping it grow. However, the significant snowfall meant more firefighters were available, he added.
“We were fortunate that some employers were closed, so it allowed our firefighters to make it,” he said.
Andersen said the best estimate he’s heard is The View was constructed in the 1950s, and it was remodeled multiple times.
“The building itself was an extreme challenge,” he said. “They did a good job with the 2015 remodel, but there were some ‘void spaces’ created, where the old building met the new.”
Those spaces allowed the fire to move quickly throughout the structure, he said.
“When the roof came down, it isolated a few pockets of fire we couldn’t put out,” Andersen said.
An investigation crew was at the scene Wednesday morning, trying to determine the cause of the fire. The blaze began in the southwest corner of the building, he said.
“(The View) had a fishing contest, and they used that room on Sunday,” Andersen said. “The building was closed on Monday.”
The owner of the building is Rob Brown. He said Wednesday he was meeting with fire officials and insurance agents and didn’t want to speak at this time.
Brown purchased the bar in July 2013 and immediately began the major renovations, overhauling the tavern to add a banquet and reception hall, along with installing the 3,000-square-foot rooftop patio. The building was 2,300 square feet when he acquired it, but it wound up being closer to 5,000 square feet once it was finished, plus the patio.
Brown’s father was removing snow at 6 a.m. at the tavern, located at 17779 Highway X in the town of Lafayette, when he saw the fire and called 911.
Andersen said the 60 firefighters battled heat in the building that reached 800 to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. He noted there were no injuries, as everyone was doing their best to work in a safe manner.
“The building is a total loss,” Andersen said. “He’s basically going to start all over from square one — that will be his decision to make.”