The entire La Pointe Fire Department was destroyed early Wednesday when the Madeline Island fire hall and all its equipment went up in flames.
An explosion of unknown origin rocked the fire hall at about 2:50 a.m., waking up a next-door neighbor who called in the emergency.
By 3 a.m., the Bayfield Fire Department was called to assist fighting the fire, Bayfield Fire Chief Tom Kovachezich said.
The Ashland Fire Department sent its lightweight brush firefighting truck and one firefighter to Madeline Island. The brush truck, intended for fighting fires in woods and fields, has limited pumping ability and Ashland Fire Chief Wayne Chenier said he was told that firefighters had to cut a hole in the ice to get water to pump into the fire.
Chenier said the department could send only the brush truck because ice leading to the island could not support heavier engines and pumpers.
La Pointe Town Administrator Lisa Potswald said she arrived at the scene at 3:30 a.m. to find that only half of a wall of the building remained standing. The fire continued to smolder at 8 a.m.
The blaze claimed all seven La Pointe Fire Department vehicles, as well as all firefighter and ambulance service equipment and gear. Some gear belonging to the La Pointe Police Department escaped destruction, Potswald said.
La Pointe is home to about 275 people on the western shore of Madeline Island and is served by about 25 volunteer firefighters, 10 ambulance personnel and three full-time police officers.
Wednesday morning La Pointe officials put their heads together to determine how to cover emergencies in the absence of trucks, equipment and gear.
Between the promises of help and offers of equipment from around the area, Potswald said, La Pointe ambulance service should be up and running by the end of today and the fire department ready to respond within a day or two.
In the meantime, the Bayfield Fire Department will cover emergencies with smaller brush and pumper trucks the department deems safe to drive over Lake Superior ice to reach the island.
Nobody suffered injuries, and the building, equipment and gear were insured, Potswald said.
“Everything that was destroyed was replaceable,” she said.
A state fire marshal arrived this morning to begin an investigation into the fire.
This story will be updated.