Fire Cause Released

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Twenty-three firefighters responded to the fire on a bitterly-cold night and kept the flames out away from businesses on all sides.

The building had stood on one of the southern-most blocks of Downtown Chippewa Falls for about a century.

Sunday's fire left half of it beyond recognition.

"They say it only takes a little while and they're right-hard to believe until you see it."

Barb Peloquin saw it all.

She's owned the river street antique store and the apartments above for about seven years. At about five Sunday night, one of her tenants left a lit cigarette in his bedroom, only to fall asleep in a living room chair.

"He woke up shortly thereafter and found the bedroom on fire," said Chippewa Falls Fire Chief Tom Larson.

The department was spread thin during the night, responding to five other emergency calls. Still, they were able to keep the flames away from other buildings nearby.

"We chased the fire around and eventually extinguished were gutted and the roof was destroyed on the buildings," Larson said.

More than $100,000 in estimated damage in just three hours.

While the apartments upstairs are considered a total loss, down on the first floor it's a different story. Much of the merchandise and the interior of the shop seems to be in tact, but eventually it'll be up to an insurance company to determine what is salvageable.

"There's a lot of water in there, some things are broke, some things seem to be fine," Peloquin said.

As are the half-dozen or so people who live and work there. None were injured as a result of the fire. Two neighbors weren't even around when it started.

"We honestly thought it was just gonna be a fire in a room where you just gotta clean it up and it's amazing how fast it was just all of a sudden the whole upstairs."

Leaving a smoky, black mess of a place that's housed homes and businesses for decades.