Jan. 28, 2015 By Michael Riley
Sirens might not have been the wake up call students were expecting last Friday morning as firefighters battled a house fire on S. Cottage Street.
No one was injured, and the two-story house was empty at the time of the fire.
The owners and residents were out of town at the time of blaze according to Whitewater Fire Department news release.
Officials estimate a building loss of $150,000 and a property loss of $100,000 at the home of 267 S. Cottage St.
In total, 16 fire departments responded. Whitewater asked for help from surrounding departments including Janesville, Palmyra, Beloit, Fort Atkinson, Lauderdale-LaGrange, Jefferson, Darien, Elkhorn, Edgerton, Walworth, East Troy, Clinton, Turtle, Eagle and Helenville.
More departments were requested because at the time of the call, many departments volunteer staffs were not readily available according to the news release.
UW-Whitewater seniors and CoBE majors Emmet Storts and Zachary Weyenberg, 306 S. Cottage St., who live almost kitty-corner to the fire, watched firetrucks lineup one-by-one as they tried to contain the fire.
“I woke up to sirens, and they kept getting closer,” Storts said. “I realized the power was out, and we have been standing outside for the last hour.”
Storts said the fire sent huge clouds of smoke above the neighborhood and at one point it appeared to be done but smoke came out of the house again. The news release did not indicate how long it took to extinguish the fire.
Weyenberg said the amount of students and community residents on Cottage Street is split.
An individual who was walking on Cottage, called it in at 8:54 a.m.
The cause of the fire still has not been reported, but the news release said the fire is believed to have started in the basement and spread to the other floors.
The “integrity” of the home and heavy smoke made the firefighters job more difficult. At 9:20 a.m., it was reported that the second-story ceiling collapsed while firefighters were in the home.
Eventually, the aerial ladder truck from Fort Atkinson was utilized to spray water down the home’s chimney to prevent further collapsing.
As the fire continued, a defensive approach was used as they awaited the blaze to reach the roof to distinguish it entirely.