Crews fight fire in downtown La Crosse
No one injured in apartments above Sawtooth Sam's on Pearl Street
LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) — No one was injured in a fire at an apartment above Sawtooth Sam’s Saloon on Pearl Street in downtown La Crosse Monday morning.
La Crosse Fire Department Division Chief Mark Amann told News 8 everyone was able to get out of the apartments at 223 Pearl Street safely. Firefighters assisted two people from a fire escape to the back of the building.
“The crew that was on the roof – the crew that you saw up there with the bucket truck – they saw these two people on the fire escape on the back side of the building. They weren’t in any imminent danger they were in a safe spot were they were at they couldn’t go back into the building because of the smoke conditions so we laddered that fire escape and we took them down that back side,” Chief Amann said.
The flames were contained to one apartment. Most of the residents said they thought it was a drill.
“I just heard fire alarms go off and everyone scurrying, I went to run to the other side of the building and it was covered in smoke,” Jim Clark, a resident at the apartments, said.
A cat jumped from the window and was later found and a gerbil was carried out safely in a cage.
The call came in at about 9:40 a.m. The initial call said someone was inside one of the apartments but when crews arrived everyone was safe.
“We searched all of the apartments from the west side to the east side of the building, no one was in the apartments,” Chief Amann said.
Crews had to break several second floor windows to assist with ventilation of smoke and heat. Firefighters used pike poles to pull walls and ceiling in the fire room to check for fire extension, finding none.
At about 10:30 a.m., La Crosse firefighters sent a tweet that the fire was out and crews were overhauling and checking for hot spots. Officials said it could have been a lot worse given the buildings age.
“If the fire would’ve extended into a wall, into a ceiling, or into a roof area then we would still be here battling,” Chief Amann said.
A resident of one of the apartments told News 8 a couch was on fire. Eight apartments were affected by the fire. Most of the apartments had smoke damage, Chief Amann told News 8. The American Red Cross is helping residents displaced by the fire.
Clark’s apartment wasn’t near the flames so most of his belongings were untouched.
“Everything I got is in my apartment, it’s all I have so thank god,” he said.
Chief Amann said there was no fire damage to the first floor, at Sawtooth Sam’s, but it had some water damage.
The fire department said discarded smoking materials caused the fire. The smoking materials set a small couch on fire.
Pearl Street was closed between 2nd and 3rd Streets while crews responded to the incident. WisDOT said law enforcement had reported that all southbound lanes of US 53/3rd St were closed between Main St. and Jay St. in La Crosse due to a structure fire. It reopened at about 10:30 a.m.