DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - An historic building collapsed during a massive fire on De Pere's east side.
De Pere Fire Chief Alan Matzke says the firefighters responded to the building at 100 S. Broadway at about 12:30 a.m. They found heavy smoke in Ogan Restaurant on the the first floor..
The fire woke people living in the building's second floor apartments. Those residents started alerting other people in the building about the fire.
"As residents began to wake up, alert each other, law enforcement arrived on scene. Law enforcement assisted with those evacuations. They were able to assist most of the people out," says Chief Alan Matzke. "By the time fire department arrived on scene we had a report that we potentially still had people trapped. We did not find anyone trapped. We were able to clear that building and ensure everyone's out. So at this point, all residents are accounted for. All residents are safe."
About 20 residents escaped without injury. People were also able to rescue their pets.
As crews started to fight the fire, the ceiling partially collapsed.
Firefighters pulled out of the building and have been working to keep the flames from spreading to the entire block.
"Fire was extensive at that address, at that restaurant, but our crews made the interior attack. The ceiling began to degrade and fall upon them. So they had to withdraw from that fire attack and we began to set up a defensive operation where we tried to protect the building next to it. That's the one that's currently still standing," Matzke says.
Matzke says the building is more than 100 years old, and that presented a challenge for firefighters.The fight stressed the city's water system.
"Initially, we were drawing so much water that we were depleting the city's water system and we were hitting all the hydrants in this downtown area," Matzke says. "We were flowing thousands and thousands of gallons a minute initially. And the system really couldn't keep up very well. So our Plan B, we moved vehicles down to the river. We had three trucks down there pumping water out of the river to feed this operation."
The building eventually collapsed and is now rubble.
In addition to the restaurant and apartments, the building also housed Turba-Schroeder Photography and XO Fitness.
The Ogan Restaurant website was updated to say, "A terrible fire has destroyed Ogan Resaturant. We are completely sad that our baby is gone. We want to acknowledge the heroic actions of the Firemen who risked their lives to get everyone out of the building and keep this terrible fire from spreading further."
Ogan Restaurant owner Ilde Nielson described it as a "devil fire."
"Last night when I came here, I could not believe, I could not believe, I was crying, you saw, like a baby, because my baby was burning," says Nielson says.
Nielson thanked the firefighters, and spoke about how much she loves the community of De Pere.
"I am in De Pere and the people support me every day. My customers there are very loyal, I miss already everybody," Nielson says. "Everyday I was here, I had people come hug me and I hug them. I enjoy my work, I enjoy food, I enjoy people and the people who work with me, my employees, we are completely shocked, completely shocked."
"When I saw it, it was really a sad day," says Mayor Mike Walsh. "This is a very historic, old building. Unfortunately when we have those kinds of buildings, it doesn't take long for them to go up when there's a fire. It's just a shame. I feel for the owner. I feel for the people who are leasing through that building and the ones who live in there."
The Red Cross temporarily set up at Century Lanes to offer help to the displaced. Some evacuees rested up on the couches at the bowling alley before finding another place to stay. The Red Cross and De Pere Health Department are working to assess their needs. Displaced residents who need help are urged to call the De Pere Health Department at 920-339-4054 or the American Red Cross at 888-627-7521.
The mayor says at least three buildings south of the scene were evacuated out of caution.
S Broadway reopened to traffic at about 8:45 a.m.
Several neighboring departments helped De Pere firefighters at the scene. More than 80 firefighters helped with the battle.
The cause of the fire is under investigation. There's no dollar amount on the damage at this time.
The building suffered a similar fate 137 years ago. It was on April 23 in 1882 that fire destroyed buildings in the 100 and 200 blocks of N and S Broadway, according to a city website.
Fire crews are on the scene of a large fire in downtown East De Pere.
Fire crews were called to the corner of South Broadway and George St. at about 12:30 Wednesday morning.
Broadway is closed in both directions between William Street and and Main Avenue.
No word on any injuries, or what caused the fire.
Action 2 News has a crew on the scene and we'll keep this story updated.