RACINE — A raging Saturday night blaze in a three-story apartment building caused an estimated $440,000 in damage, but all residents escaped the three-story building safely, the Racine Fire Department reported Sunday.
Fire crews were called to the fire at 1045 Grand Ave. shortly after 8:30 p.m. The department later reported that working smoke alarms alerted the residents who were home at the time and allowed them to get out. Three of the six apartments were rented and three were vacant, Fire Department Lt. John Magnus said Sunday.
Once on scene, firefighters attacked the building from all sides of the brick structure with fire hoses. An aerial truck was used get to the higher floors, as firefighters sprayed water on the north side and through a broken window on third floor of building’s the west side.
One bystander said flames were shooting upward from the roof when he arrived. Later, after firefighters had quelled most of the fire, they also used an aerial truck to spray water in from above the roof. The fire was mostly under control by about 10 p.m.
Numerous windows were shattered in the battle against the fire which was heaviest on the east side. Surrounding streets became icy as water from the hoses landed and froze.
At 8:58 p.m., firefighters used a battering ram to break down the front door, after which they entered the building wearing breathing apparatus.
It took firefighters about three hours to fully extinguish the fire.
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Magnus said the $440,000 damage estimate was based on replacement cost, and he used the figure of $110 per square foot for the 4,080-square-foot building. He called the damage “moderate to severe” and did not necessarily consider the building a total loss, because the brick exterior was still intact.
The building, owned by a Milwaukee woman, was last assessed at $153,000.
The American Red Cross offered help with temporary lodging to three adult and two juvenile residents of the building, said Patty Flowers of the Red Cross. Two families had other places to stay, and one man went to stay in a hotel or motel.
The Red Cross also offered help to two neighbors, Flowers said, but they chose to return home that night.
During most of the combat against the fire, insulation on nearby power lines also was burning until the blaze was under control and We Energies was allowed to de-energize the lines, and those fires were then sprayed and extinguished.
About 485 We Energies customers in the area were without power as a result, for about 45 minutes. We Energies spokesperson Cathy Schulze said the lines were re-energized when the utility got the Fire Department’s approval.
As of Sunday afternoon, the cause of the fire was under investigation. Anyone with information about the fire is asked to call the Fire Prevention Bureau at 262-635-7915.