Crews battle fire in downtown Portage

Whole of downtown is being barricaded

Published On: Jun 10 2012 08:10:05 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 11 2012 01:23:05 PM CDT
PORTAGE, Wis. -

Fire crews put out a building fire in downtown Portage on Sunday night.

SLIDESHOW: See viewers' photo of downtown building fire

The fire involved a building on the corner of Dewitt Street and West Cook Street. It broke out at about 4:40 p.m. and burned for four hours. Firefighters were able to extinguish the flames at about 9 p.m.

The building housed a bridal and prom shop on the lower level of the structure and residential space on the upper floor. A married couple rents the whole building, running the business downstairs. The wife, Tara Norland, allowed her mother and brother to occasionally live upstairs, and the brother called 911 about the fire.

The fire began in the upstairs apartment. A man reported the fire and got out safely. No injuries were reported.

Norland said she was upset about what was lost in the fire.

"I live there, my businesses were there," she said. "I just went into photography two years ago. My cameras, their pictures, their memories, I just lost them all. Not only theirs, but mine. I don't know."

The building is considered a total loss, WISC-TV reported.

They said they can't understand why it took so long to put the fire out. Mark Hahn, of Portage police, said that the fire grew in strength.

"At the time, the officers responded and arrived, there were flames coming out of the second story. Due to the heat and the amount of flames and everything, they tried to extinguish it but didn't have any luck," said Hahn.

Authorities said that six fire departments eventually responded.

The whole downtown was barricaded because of the fire, according to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office.
Crews were still working later Sunday night to clean up after the fire. They cleared debris from area sidewalks and road.
Authorities said that fire didn't spread to nearby buildings although some had some smoke damage.
Four cats who lived in the building haven't been located yet.