WATERTOWN — An early-morning fire in Watertown was deemed a total loss, amounting to nearly $1.1 million.
The fire broke out at Waupun Equipment in Watertown about 4:19 a.m., according to firefighters. Fire was coming through the roof of the building housing farming equipment.
The elements made it difficult to fight the fire.
"It was difficult," said Chief Kraig Biefeld of the Watertown Fire Department.
"Winds played a heavy factor, and cold played a heavy factor in this fire. Wind-driven fires are very difficult because it keeps feeding the fire there, but when you put a cold like this in with it, it makes it extremely difficult to do this. We had some apparatus that we had to return because alarms going off because of cold weather conditions. Hoses freeze if we don't get them going."
A portion of Highway 19 in Watertown had to be closed during the fire. Hoses were laid across the street to get enough water to the fire. The highway itself was coated in ice in some parts. The local streets department had to come through to lay down excess salt and melt the ice.
Everything outside of the building was encased in ice. There were pieces of farm equipment ready to be tended to that were covered in icicles from the mist of firefighters' hoses.
However, it was the firefighters themselves who showed just how cold it was, with ice caked onto their helmets and, in some cases, their mustaches.
"They just do it," Biefeld said. "They're strong individuals. They work through it. I'm sure they'll be feeling chilled all day long with everything. It gets you almost like a walking snowman."
Firefighters said the building itself is worth about $700,000, while the equipment inside is valued at nearly $400,000.
But the owner is looking on the bright side.
"Thank god, nobody got hurt," said Greg Kast, the owner of Waupun Equipment. "That's the main thing."
"Having another business in Waupun, we can make use of that somewhat. But it's probably going to be six months to a year to get rebuilt and up and running again." — Greg Kast, owner of Waupun Equipment
Kast said they do about one-third of their business out of this location in Watertown. He said their other location in Waupun will take on extra work, and the eight employees who usually work in Watertown will be sent to other locations. It will be some time before they are back to full speed.
"It's a big loss," Kast said. "Having another business in Waupun, we can make use of that somewhat. But it's probably going to be six months to a year to get rebuilt and up and running again."
Firefighters had not determined a cause for the fire Monday morning but do not believe it is suspicious.