Lit cigarette blamed for Waukesha fire that damaged three businesses

The fire that damaged three businesses in downtown Waukesha Tuesday was likely caused by a lit cigarette. 

The Spring City Wine House and The Clarke Hotel sustained the heaviest damage Tuesday afternoon. They will be closed for at least a few weeks. 

The Steaming Cup was also damaged but could be back open by this weekend. 

 Fire officials say six firefighters suffered heat exhaustion or smoke inhalation while battling the fire Tuesday afternoon, including two who were sent to the hospital. All of them were doing O.K. on Wednesday. 

Authorities say a carelessly discarded cigarette likely sparked the fire, but their investigation is ongoing.

Business owners said the careless mistake is frustrating. 

“We have cigarette receptacles all around the building, so there’s really no excuse for it,” says Dennis Radtke, the CEO of Harp & Eagle Limited, the hospitality group that owns The Clarke Hotel. “But, things happen. This is a one in a million kind of thing and it’s the reason we have insurance.”

Radtke expects the clean up to take about a month. He’s had to call people who have rooms and events booked at the hotel. 

“We’ve had to move a lot of people and move a lot of parties,” he says.  “We’ve been working to accommodate those groups and other places. They are tough calls to make, but people have been understanding.”

At least a dozen other agencies provided mutual aid to put out the fire.

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