A Portage home is a “total loss” after a fire Wednesday that took several fire departments more than three hours to extinguish.
The call came about 3:20 p.m. for the house next to The Good Stuff at 2520 W. Wisconsin St. Both entrances to the street were blocked off by Portage Police for safety.
The house was fully engulfed with flames showing and heavy smoke when firefighters arrived, according to Portage Fire Chief Clayton Simonson.
This fire was tough to fight because of the cold and very strong wind, Simonson said. “The wind was pushing the fire … driving it across the front of the house.”
He called for assistance from the Pardeeville and Poynette fire departments to allow firefighters to take more breaks out of the frigid cold and wind.
The single-family home will be a total loss, Simonson said.
It is too early to know of a cause, he said.
Luckily, there were several witnesses in the area who jumped into action.
One of those who saw the smoke and flames was Cory Calkins, who lives across the street.
He was returning home, after picking up his children at school.
“I thought God, that looks like a lot of smoke coming from (the) house,” Calkins said.
Then he saw flames shoot out of the house.
Calkins quickly moved his vehicle away from the house, told his children to stay in his truck, then saw another man run into the house and help a woman inside the house — who uses a wheelchair — get out.
“He was already in the house, getting her out,” Calkins said. “I just helped him get her off the porch and then out to the road.”
Jenn Selbach saw the flames leap while driving by and called 911.
“There was a woman in a wheelchair and she had just a housecoat on. I carried her over to a van,” she said.
Selbach had extra winter clothes and blankets in her vehicle, so she gave them to the two women to keep warm. The older woman was in one van being checked out by EMT workers and the other was in Selbach’s van warming up. Both women were assisted by the medical personnel on scene and at least one was taken to Divine Savior Healthcare by ambulance.
Lori Klawitter was just leaving work at Rayovac around the bend from the fire.
“Two women (said) they were just going to lay down and take a nap, smelled smoke coming from the kitchen. The smoke just did not look right to me,” she said of the thick black plumes.
Kendra Kleist works at Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics across Highway 16 from the house fire. Done with her work day she drove down West Wisconsin Street when a woman stopped her.
“The lady who was visiting flagged me down. She said there was a dog in a cage still in the house,” Kleist said.
“God had us here for a reason,” Selbach said.
Mayor Bill Tierney went to the scene as firefighters were waiting to see if they had completely extinguished the fire. Tierney said he is very appreciative of the Portage firefighters as well as those from Pardeeville and Poynette who responded to a request for mutual aid.
“The camaraderie shown and the cooperation shown amongst the departments just shows that great volunteer spirit,” Tierney said.
Firefighters were given food and hot coffee from The Good Stuff restaurant, adjacent to the house.