Cause of Wisconsin Street duplex fire under investigation"I can’t confirm it or deny it at this point,” Hudson Fire Chief Jim Frye said when asked if the fire originated from a vehicle that a resident was working on in his garage.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
The cause of a Dec. 29 fire that badly damaged a duplex at 804/806 Wisconsin St. is still under investigation, according to Hudson Fire Chief Jim Frye.
“I can’t confirm it or deny it at this point,” Frye said when asked if the fire originated from a vehicle that a resident was working on in his garage.
The fire was initially reported as a car fire in a garage by the St. Croix Emergency Communications Center. The Hudson Fire Department was dispatched to the address at 1:12 p.m.
Frye said he expected the investigation into the cause of the fire to be completed by early next week (Jan. 4-5).
“We don’t think it is suspicious,” he said of the cause.
“Right,” he replied when asked if the cause was accidental.
Randy Westling, a resident of the unit at 804 Wisconsin St., told a reporter on the scene the day of the fire that he suspected that his neighbor’s vehicle ignited it. He said he had warned the neighbor that his attempts to start the vehicle in the garage could start a fire.
Scott Johnson of Hudson told the Star-Observer that he was in a vehicle with another Hudson man going up the Ninth Street hill when they noticed the smoke from the Wisconsin Street fire and drove to the duplex.
Johnson said he saw a man pull something from underneath the vehicle shortly before it burst into flames. The flames then quickly spread to the garage and into the attic above both duplex units.
The duplex has two single-car garages in the center, separating the two dwelling units.
Frye said both garages and the dwelling unit at 806 Wisconsin sustained considerable fire damage. The flames also swept through the attic, which didn’t have a fire break between the units, he said.
Frye didn’t know who the residents of 806 Wisconsin St. were when the Star-Observer spoke to him on Wednesday, Dec. 30.
He reported that a man he believed to be a resident of the duplex unit was taken by ambulance to Hudson Hospital. Police radio communications indicate that the man was then transported to Regions Hospital.
St. Croix County property records list Vanda J. Fenner of Hudson as owner of the duplex. The building and land had a 2009 fair market value of $232,000, according to the records.
Randy Westling and his wife, Cindi, were at the scene watching fighters work to put out the flames on Dec. 29.
Westling said he was at Roberts Towing & Repair, his place of employment, when he got a call from Cindi saying there was smoke coming from the neighbor’s garage.
He said he made the 12-mile trip from the repair shop on Main Street in Roberts to his home in Hudson in 12 minutes.
He could see the smoke from Interstate 94 and hoped that it wasn’t his place burning.
Westling is a mechanic. He worked at Don’s Mobil Service at the corner of Third and Vine streets in Hudson for many years before Donny Colbeth sold the auto repair shop in July 2000. It’s now Nick’s Automotive Service.
Westling, who had been talking to Hudson firefighters, said it appeared that most of the fire damage was to his neighbor’s garage and residence.
“I don’t like that,” he said moments later when a firefighter took a fire hose into the front door of his residence.
Dense gray smoke was billowing from the duplex half an hour into the firefighting effort. It came through the open garage doors and curled out from under the eaves.
Firefighters wearing face masks and air packs disappeared into the smoke as they aimed fire hoses in the garage and residence at 806 Wisconsin St.
Three firefighters later climbed a ladder to the roof and used a chainsaw and an axe to cut a hole in it to release smoke from the attic.
A fire officer said over the emergency communications system at 2:10 p.m. that the fire had been “knocked down.”
Firefighters began leaving the scene at 3:10 p.m.
Westling said his landlord had come by and offered to find him another place to stay.
“I’m sure it’s uninhabitable,” he said of his own residence.
A representative of the American Red Cross was reported to be on the scene at 3 p.m.
Westling had a 1957 Buick in his garage that he was restoring. He said the wheels were off the car, so it couldn’t be rolled out of the garage.
The St. Joseph and Roberts fire departments were called in to assist the Hudson Department.