Rural firefighters drafted to help save historic downtown De Pere

Posted at 8:30 a.m. on April 24, 2019

The Brillion News

THE PHOTOS ACCOMPANYING THIS STORY ARE COURTESY OF THE WAYSIDE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT. To see more, visit their Facebook page at  https://www.facebook.com/waysidefiredept/

DE PERE – Fire departments from Wayside, Morrison, Greenleaf and Wrightstown were called out for a full alarm fire early Wednesday morning in downtown east De Pere.

The fire destroyed a century-old two-story building at 100 S. Broadway Street,  with two businesses on the ground floor and apartments on the second floor.

The De Pere Fire Department immediately called for help. Firefighters and police officers evacuated people from the threatened apartments, and then tried to save the burning building. When that was deemed impossible – with the flaming building beginning to collapse around firefighters inside of it – the fire department switched to a defensive strategy, working to save the other buildings on the west side of the 100 block of South Broadway.

The municipal hydrants could not supply the volume of water needed, and so the rural fire departments set up pumpers along the Fox River, on Front Street, to suction river water to feed the lines leading up the hill to other fire trucks on Broadway.

The building at 100 S. Broadway was a total loss, with Carter Excavating using a high-hoe to tear what was left of it down at 7 a.m.

The initial call, around 12:30 a.m. reported smoke and possible flames in the restaurant located in the building. Police officers alerted 911 dispatchers to the seriousness of the emergent situation.

In addition to the rural fire departments from the south end of the county, the Lawrence, Ledgeview, Denmark, Hobart, Howard, Ashwaubenon, and Pulaski fire departments were also dispatched to help De Pere – which also called up all of its off-duty firefighters.

One firefighter suffered a minor leg injury, which did not require treatment.

The burned out building is at the very north end of the block. The next building to the south appeared to have suffered significant damage to its exterior north wall and to the roof line.

The fire was on the southwest corner of Broadway and George Streets. Nearly 30 years ago, a similar fire destroyed a building on the northeast corner of the same intersection. That blaze destroyed the old Radant’s Variety Store building and the apartments above it.

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