State fire marshal investigating
By Scott Bellile
The state fire marshal and the New London Police Department are investigating a suspicious fire that occurred downtown on New Year’s Day.
The fire originated in a vacant upstairs apartment at 315 1/2 S. Pearl St. The apartment did not have electricity.
“The fire did not cause severe damage,” New London Fire Capt. Don Conat said. “The apartment is fixable, but there was an active fire in the apartment, and we extinguished it before it extended too far in to the main structure of the building.”
New London Police Sgt. Earl Ruckdashel said there is no new information to report since the fire occurred Sunday, Jan. 1. He confirmed it looks suspicious and remains under investigation.
New London Fire Department received the fire call at 8:26 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 1, after someone in the area reported the smell of smoke.
Smoke billowed out the door when firefighters entered on the rear side, but there were no visible flames from outside, Conat said.
“Our firefighters had to put on air packs to enter this apartment,” Conat said. “It was that heavy of dark smoke. But they did a good job and extinguished it quickly.”
The building is located between the Pantry Cafe and an unoccupied building that used to be a laundromat. Its ground floor doesn’t have a business right now but is being used as storage space.
“It was in the middle of the block, so [the fire] had the potential to take out a number of buildings in the downtown business district,” Conat said.
315 1/2 S. Pearl St. has two upstairs apartments, one of which is occupied. The tenant living there wasn’t home at the time, Conat said.
Ruckdashel said the building legally belongs to Art Malouf, who died in 2015. His children are handling the estate.
Police and Waupaca County deputies evacuated anybody who was nearby during the fire, including people at the Pantry Cafe.