La Pointe fire hall fire

Smoke billows from the remains of the La Pointe Fire Hall Wednesday morning on Madeline Island. The early-morning fire destroyed the fire department’s trucks, equipment and gear, but emergency services resumed Thursday late afternoon as replacement equipment started to pour in. The cause of the blaze remains unknown, but a neighbor reported an explosion at the hall at about 2:50 a.m.

Madeline Island’s emergency services, devastated by a Wednesday fire that razed the fire hall, returned to operation at 6 p.m. Thursday after taking delivery of two trucks from the state Department of Natural Resources.

Officials haven’t yet released the cause of the early-morning fire that left the La Pointe Fire Department and ambulance service without trucks, equipment or gear to respond to emergencies on the Chequamegon Bay island off the shores of Bayfield.

The DNR drove two 19,000-pound trucks, one at a time, over the ice road on Lake Superior that connects Madeline Island to the mainland late Thursday afternoon. Authorities closed the ice road to traffic for about 30 minutes to accommodate the heavy equipment.

The blaze utterly destroyed the fire hall, taking with it fire department and ambulance vehicles, gear and equipment. Some gear belonging to the police department also failed to escape the fire’s fury.

But help continues to arrive, and morale among Madeline Island firefighters seems to be on an even keel.

Pomasl Fire Equipment is renting an ambulance to the emergency service, said Lisa Potswald, La Pointe town administrator. The fire department is taking back the use of a pumper that it sold recently and receiving 10 sets of fire-resistant suits and air equipment for firefighters.

Meanwhile, the Turtle Lake Reservation Police Department is sending three bulletproof vests via a relay of troopers from the Wisconsin State Patrol, Potswald said.

Madeline Island residents, who number about 275, are dejected over the destruction of the fire hall, but no one was injured, Potswald said, and damaged or destroyed equipment can be replaced.

A state fire marshal and insurance investigators remained on the island Friday morning to nail down the cause of the fire. Crews can’t begin cleanup operations until the investigators release the fire hall site, which could happen this weekend, Potswald said.

The town board will discuss options for rebuilding the fire hall at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

A GoFundMe campaign to raise $100,000 has been launched to pay for losses and expenses not covered by insurance, and to thank the island's emergency services workers. An anonymous matching grant of $100,000 has also been made in memory of Barb Rogers, a fundraiser for causes on Madeline Island.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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