EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Early morning fire destroyed an Eau Claire building used to help people with disabilities through job training and programs.
There was no one inside and no one was injured. A cause is still unknown, but staff said it started in a nearby shed.
“The building's devastated and so are we,” Reach Inc. CEO Stacy H. Wigfield said.
Staff at Reach came to work a little early Friday, but they didn't clock in.
“To me, I’m still in shock. Because (Thursday) I was here working and everything was normal and to come here this morning and everything is gone, we did expect it. Right now, I’m still shaking, I can't believe it,” Reach Program Supervisor Oppong Kyermeh said.
Reach Incorporated staff and clients called the building home for more than 30 years, until flames ripped it apart early Friday morning.
“Everything is lost. We couldn't save anything,” Kyermeh said.
“It's very important, not to us the workers, but to our clients that we serve and the community at whole because we don't want the clients to end up just staying at home doing nothing.”
Chase Wojak, a Reach client who has high-functioning autism, had to see it to believe it.
“I told chase and he was about in tears, and he thought I was kidding him, so we had to come down, just so he realizes that what happened happened,” Chase’s dad, Adam Wojak said.
“It's given him some independence and it gives him something to look forward to going to. Most people go to a regular job every day, but Chase, he goes to Reach.”
“They're excited to come here and even some of them get sick when they don't even come here. So it's very sad,” Kyermeh said.
“The best part is cleaning the cafeterias and chores and washing tables and cleaning lockers!” Chase Wojak of Fall Creek said.
Plans are in the works to find temporary space and eventually rebuild in the same location, staff said.
“We're going to get back to 100 percent operational as absolutely soon as we can, and asking to have everybody hang in there with us,” Reach Inc. CEO Stacy H. Wigfield said.
“Start rebuild up. Rebuild this up! Start rebuilding up the brand new Reach!” Chase said.
Wigfield said the building is insured, but computers and other equipment were destroyed.
Eau Claire Police say they are interviewing two people in connection to the fires at Reach, Inc. and at 1827 Whipple Street.
Officers say they are investigating both fires as criminal acts. They says the man and woman were arrested on unrelated meth charges.
Police say the man was spotted near the garage fire on Whipple Street and the woman was questioned after her name came up during interviews. Police have been interviewing several other people who live or work near Reach.
For information on how to donate to Reach incorporated, click on the link below.