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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Battle Blaze-Firefighters from eleven area departments battled a fire which destroyed Crivitz Lumber on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Village of Crivitz Fire Chief Luke Deschane, said the call was reported around 7 p.m. When Crivitz firefighters arrived on scene Chief Deschane immediately called for assistance using the MABAS system. Firefighters remained on scene all night and into Wednesday morning to extinguish any hot spots and do overhaul. No Injuries were reported. Top Photo-Firefighters pour water through the front window of Crivitz Lumber. Bottom Left-Crivitz firefighters beat back flames when front window was broken out. Bottom Right-Charred remains of the Crivitz Lumber early Wednesday morning. Cause of the fire is under investigation by the Crivitz Fire Department.

Crivitz Lumber Destroyed By Fire

Issue Date: January 31, 2019

Eleven Departments Battle Blaze and Cold

A major fire in downtown Crivitz destroyed a landmark family owned business Tuesday, Jan.29. The main building and lumberyard area at Crivitz Lumber and Rental Center were completely destroyed in the blaze which was called in at approximately 7p.m. Firefighters kept the flames from spreading to the two main warehouses and neighboring structures.

Cause of the fire remains under investigation by Crivitz Fire Department, and no damage estimates were available at press time. Firefighters remained at the scene through the night and most of the day on Wednesday. On Wednesday neighboring departments were sending in additional volunteers to relieve those who had been on the job through the night.

Crivitz Fire Chief Lukas Deschane said upon arrival at the scene Tuesday night he immediately called in a MABAS (Mutual Aid Box Alarm System) third box alarm level. At the third box alarm level Marinette County Emergency Government was notified, as was the state Badger Red agency. Deschane later upgraded that to a fifth box alarm, which is the most serious event that can be handled on a local level.

Over 50 firefighters from 11 area departments responded. Departments sending assistance to help the Crivitz Fire Department included Town of Lake, Town of Stephenson, Middle Inlet, Wausaukee, Athelstane, Grover-Porterfield, Town of Peshtigo, Town of Wagner, City of Marinette and Village of Coleman. Rescue squads from Crivitz, Wausaukee and Coleman along with paramedics from Bay Area Medical Center also responded, as did American Red Cross volunteers.

Dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills hampered firefighters all night long. Temperatures recorded at 20 degrees below zero were aggravated by strong winds that made the chill feel like more than 40 degrees below zero. Hoses and apparatus froze. Warming areas for firefighters were set up in the Crivitz Elementary School and Tru Colors Beauty Salon due tot he concern of Crivitz School District authorities and the owners of the beauty salon. Food, hot chocolate and coffee were brought in for firefighters.

Smoke and flames could be seen for miles as the fire continued to spread through the building. Power was lost to more than 90 people during the blaze, leaving most of those homes without heat on the frigid night. An emergency warming shelter was set up for them at Crivitz Village Hall, and those who needed it were provided with transportation assistance to get there.

Village President John Deschane described the destruction of Crivitz Lumber as, "A terrible loss for our community. My hope is that the Gocht family will rebuild," and added, "I am happy that no one was injured in the fire and I commend all the firefighters for doing their job under such extreme conditions. I want to express my intense appreciation for all the cooperation we got from so many on this"You don't know how moving that is," Deschane concluded. "It is wonderful to live in such a generous, giving area!"

Mike Dama, president of Crivitz school board and owner of a business located near Crivitz Lumber, described the scene as "like something out of a movie," with flames shooting 60 to 80 feet into the air. "It is something you really hate to see go. When something like this happens you hope they rebuild," Dama said in a television interview. "You hope it (Crivitz Lumber Company) comes back because it is really an anchor in the community." He described loss of the Lumber Company as a tragedy for the small community.

The George Gocht family has owned and operated Crivitz Lumber since 1920. The firm is in its fourth generation of family ownership, and has been a fixture in downtown Crivitz for nearly a century. Presently George Gocht IV and his sister Renee run the company.

Firefighters remained on scene all night and on Wednesday morning they were still trying to extinguish hot spots. The building contents, lots of heavy timber and age of the structure made extinguishing the blaze extremely difficult according to firefighters.

There were reports that at one point the Village of Crivitz water tower was almost emptied due to the large amount of water used to fight the fire but John Deschane and Water Utilities Operator Rudi Jensen, who was fire chief before Lukas Deschane took on the job, said at no time was the tower out of water. However, Jensen and the Chief Deschane had to coordinate efforts to let the pumps catch up, since firefighters were drawing water at the rate of 2,000 gallons a minute and the utility's pumps can refill the tower only at the rate of 500 gallons a minute. Jensen did contact 911 Dispatch to put through his first call to Deschane, and after that they reportedly conferred at least 45 times through the night. Whenever water level in the tower dropped to less than 10 feet firefighters would slow down on water use to let it refill.

One of the assisting fire departments said other departments were hauling in water, but had to quit because water in their tankers froze before they could use it.

Chief Deschane was quoted as saying this was one of the worst fires they could have had in Crivitz, and putting it on one of the coldest nights in years made a bad situation even worse.




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