Fire in downtown Hortonville
One firefighter injured, building may be a total loss
By Scott Bellile
A downtown Hortonville fire over the weekend displaced a resident and left plans uncertain for a future business that was in the works.
Hortonville-Hortonia Fire District responded to heavy smoke at a first-floor apartment at 203 W. Main St. after 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29.
Main Street was closed for four hours while Hortonville-Hortonia battled the blaze with fire departments from New London, Greenville and Ellington.
The cause of the fire and the estimated value of the damage wasn’t immediately available. Jack Kuhnke, assistant fire chief, said he believes either a malfunctioning extension cord or a space heater caused the fire.
Hortonville-Hortonia Fire Chief Dave Dorn predicted a total loss.
A passerby reported the fire as the apartment tenant, Chris Voster, wasn’t home at the time. Voster plans to move to his mother’s home, Kuhnke said.
A second-story apartment at 203 W. Main St. was vacant, and there was no business operating in the first-floor storefront at the time.
Neenah resident Mark Schmitt, whose mother owns 203 W. Main St., said his family was two weeks away from selling the property to a local woman who planned to start a flower shop there. The fire will postpone the potential sale, Schmitt said, but he was thankful the tenant wasn’t injured.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Schmitt said. “Nobody got hurt. It’s fine.”
One firefighter injured a knee from kneeling onto a nail inside and was treated at the scene.
Firefighters arrived to heavy smoke but found no flames until they kicked open the back door. Once firefighters poured water on the flames, the presence of oxygen created a flashover and blew out the windows.
The flames spread to inside the walls, and the second story collapsed, Dorn said.
“It burned out pretty bad,” Dorn said.
No surrounding buildings were damaged, Kuhnke said.
“Our guys did a good job of keeping it contained in the one building because I didn’t think that was going to be possible, as close as the buildings are in the downtown area,” Kuhnke said.
Dorn said the area fire departments helped “tremendously.”
“The guys did a very good job of knocking [the fire] down,” Dorn said. “Hats off to the neighbors for coming to help.”
Older than a century, 203 W. Main St. has housed numerous businesses, including Electric Images tattoo parlor, Creative Stitches, Main Street Antiques and Schmitt Bikes.
Dorn and Kuhnke both said Sunday’s event was the first downtown Hortonville fire they could recall in their lifetimes.