Extent of damage complicates identifying Fitchburg fire cause

A fire early Thursday at a commercial storage shed in Fitchburg caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage, fire officials said.

The Fitchburg Fire Department said it received a report of a fire at 2 a.m.  at 5113 Curry Court. Some callers who reported the fire to 911 said they heard explosions from inside the building.

The fire department said a 100-pound LP tank found in the grass outside the shed was likely the source of the explosions. Fire chief Chad Grossen said it’s not known if the tank had any role in starting the fire, and the extent of damage from the fire makes determining the cause more complicated.

A 40-by-75-foot storage shed was engulfed in flames with a collapsed roof when fire crews arrived, according to a news release. Because of the conditions, the fire was fought defensively, strictly from the outside of the building.

Crews on the first responding engine could see a column of smoke from about 2 miles away, according to the report. Because of the fire’s rural location, firefighters were concerned about having an adequate supply of water at the scene, but the one available hydrant provided enough water to extinguish the fire.

The fire department said one side of the shed was being used for private storage and the other housed equipment for a landscaping business, Blue Iris Landscaping.

“Nineteen years of just building up a business that just burned to the ground,” owner Taylor Elkins said. “It’s very painful to say. When you’re small starting up, just build one piece of equipment at a time. It takes a long time. And that’s all gone.”

Because of the blaze, Elkins’ five employees are now struggling to finish two jobs, and they have three upcoming jobs scheduled.

“That we need dump trucks for,” Elkins said. “We’ll basically be busy all year if we have the equipment to do it.”

The shed was located at the end of Curry Court, and no other structures were close enough to be damaged by the flames. The fire was extinguished after about 30 minutes, but crews remained at the scene for another 3 hours to extinguish hot spots.

The Fitchburg Joint Fire Investigation Team and the State of Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation said the fire originated in one corner of the building. Because of the extent of damage to the structure and its contents, the cause is undetermined, but does not appear to be suspicious. Damage was limited to the shed and its contents, with an initial estimated dollar loss of $300,000.

No injuries were reported.

The Fitchburg Fire Department received automatic aid from the town of Madison Fire Department, Oregon Area Fire & EMS and FitchRona EMS. Mutual aid was provided by the Middleton Fire District, the Belleville Volunteer Fire Department, Brooklyn Fire & EMS and McFarland Fire and Rescue.