No one was injured in an apartment building fire that required the aid of 27 fire departments from Door, Kewaunee and Brown counties on Sunday night. Curt Vandertie, Fire Chief for the Brussels-Union-Gardner (BUG) Fire Department said it was the worst conditions he has seen in his 19 years of service.
“We had issues with the equipment freezing up,” said Vandertie. “Any water that touched you, it was instant ice.”
Vandertie said the fire likely started in a furnace in the basement of a house on the corner of Rocky Road and County Line Road between Dyckesville and Brussels. BUG first responded at 8:30 pm and didn’t leave the scene until 7 am the following morning, returning twice to battle rekindling flames.
The apartment building that caught fire displaced four families, some of which are without insurance, who are now being served by the Red Cross.
“From a fire department perspective it’s one of your worst-case scenarios,” said Vandertie of the old remodeled building that used to serve as a bowling alley and dance hall. Failing to gain entry to the building twice, Vandertie called in more units as the ceiling collapsed and the first floor fell into the basement.
“Smoke conditions started to change and get worse. We ended up backing out all crews and within minutes part of the roof was caving in,” said Vandertie. “From that point forward the call just grew.”
Vandertie praised the communication system used to contact surrounding departments called the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS).
“I can’t imagine having to try to determine 27 departments that we could get help from without MABAS in place. That’s the beauty of MABAS. Based on how your incident grows you just call in more resources that are preplanned for,” said Vandertie.
Firefighters are coordinating some sort of Christmas celebration for the displaced families, which included five children between the ages of seven and 18, on Friday, Dec. 23.
The owner of the apartment complex, Rick DeJardin, set up a GoFundMe campaign to collect aid for the families found here: gofundme.com/apartment-fire-requires-your-help.