Sauk Prairie farmers hope fire-damaged McFarlane’s rebuilds soon

State investigators classify fire cause as 'undetermined'
Sauk Prairie farmers hope fire-damaged McFarlane’s rebuilds soon

Farmers in the Sauk Prairie area said they hoped the fire-damaged McFarlane’s store rebuilds soon, even as the cause of the fire may never be known.

The state Fire Marshal’s office has finished its investigation and wasn’t able to prove the fire’s cause with an acceptable level of certainty, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Criminal Investigation.

The blaze destroyed McFarlane’s True Value hardware store, but spared the company’s tire, equipment and rental businesses, allowing owner John McFarlane to consider moving them to a temporary location.

“We’re devastated by the loss, but it’s just inventory,” said McFarlane, a third-generation owner. “It can be replaced, and it will be replaced. That’s our plan.”

McFarlane said he was thankful no one was hurt in the fire, and said he was in the process of getting a temporary facility on U.S. Highway 12.

State investigators have turned over the scene to the insurance company.

The fire broke out late Monday night, and firefighters from 15 departments responded. It took nearly a full day before all of them were able to leave.

Local farmers called the McFarlane family a delight and pleasurable to deal with for decades.

“It’s going to be tough on us (until the business is rebuilt),” said Jack Wyttenbach, who’s been farming in the area for more than 50 years. “It’s been so convenient and a pleasurable place to go in and do business.”

Sauk Prairie farmers hope fire-damaged McFarlane’s rebuilds soon

Wyttenbach said his business relationship with the McFarlanes has turned into a personal one.

“One thing about that family — it’s resilient,” Wyttenbach said. “I would expect them to come back in a very positive way — that’s just the way they are.”

Down the road, seventh-generation farmer Greg Elsing said he sometimes needs to stop by the farm store five times a day for nuts, bolts and spare parts.

“I knew every aisle in the store better than most of the people who worked there,” said Elsing, whose family farm has been around since 1865. “I’ve never had to look anywhere else, so I have no idea where to get some of these parts I might need.”

Elsing said, without McFarlane’s, the closest farm store is in Baraboo, which would cost him travel time.