A family is homeless after their trailer in the Town of Rock Falls was destroyed in a fire Friday evening.
Roger Wienandt was home when the fire started and tried to extinguish the flames before having his wife contact 911 to report the blaze.
When the first responding deputy from the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department arrived on the scene at W6868 Tug Lake Road, he found Wienandt standing outside the trailer, which had visible smoke coming from the roof. He told the deputy he had been lying down when he smelled smoke and began having trouble breathing. He went to the area where the family had a wood burning stove on a built-in porch and found flames coming from it.
Wienandt said he tried to fight the fire with a hose before contacting his wife, who was at a school function with their child, to have her call 911.
The Merrill Fire Department responded to the call with two engines, a tanker and an ambulance. Because of the steep, snow covered driveway leading to the trailer from Tug Lake Road, only Engine 2 could make it next to the trailer along with the tanker. According to Assistant MFD Chief Steve Hintze, an electrical malfunction on the engine kept the pump from generating water pressure to the fire hoses.
Attempts to get Engine 1 up the driveway resulted in it sliding to the bottom of the drive and becoming stuck in the snow. Firefighters quickly set up operations from there, running hoses up the driveway to the fire, which the scene,” Hintze said. “I’m just glad nobody was hurt and we didn’t lose any vehicles. Sometimes it is hard getting to some of these rural fires with the equipment we have.”
Hintze said that Engine 2 was purchased by the department four or five years ago used, and has been serviced recently for the same reason that caused the pump to fail Friday. He said that he didn’t know if the trailer could have been saved even if they had been able to pump water right away.
To compound the problem, the tanker lost a pump jarred loose while the truck raced down Highway 107 to Tug Lake. The pump, which was destroyed in the fall, was picked up and brought to the scene by a passing motorist.
With the majority of the department on duty at the time at the scene, eight off duty firemen were called in to man the main station and bring the fire engine from the NTC Training Center back to serve as a back-up. In the three hours fire fighters were at the fire at the Wienandt residence, two medical runs were called in to 911.
Even with tankers responding from Tomahawk and Russell departments, Hintze said the MFD still sent a fireman to Grandfather Dam to set up a refilling station. The lone fireman carried the heavy pump out onto the ice, augured a hole and was standing by to refill tankers if additional water was needed.
The fire is still under investigation by the MFD but the cause is believed to be the wood stove. The Wienandt’s have no insurance and lost almost everything in the fire.
After the fire was extinguished, Engine 2 was pulled from the snow by Rod’s Towing.