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Fire destroys part of River City Metal

A fire that broke out at River City Metal & Auto Salvage late Saturday morning, April 15 was expected to smolder for awhile due to the contents of the building. Submitted photo1 / 4
A fire at River City Metal & Auto Salvage Saturday, April 15 drew many onlookers to the scene, as well as multiple fire departments. Submitted photo2 / 4
This is how the scene of a raging fire at River City Metals & Auto Salvage looked several hours after it started Saturday, April 15. This photo was shot at about 5:30 p.m. Sarah Young/RiverTown Multimedia3 / 4
Multiple firefighters were still on the scene at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 15, more than six hours after a large fire broke out at River City Metals & Auto Salvage in the town of Diamond Bluff along the Great River Road. Sarah Young/RiverTown Multimedia4 / 4

TOWN OF DIAMOND BLUFF -- A fire that broke out at a rural Prescott business was still smoldering six hours after it started on April 15, shut down a state highway and drew more than 10 departments to respond.

Ellsworth Fire Chief Brent Langer said the Ellsworth fire department responded to the fire at 12:21 p.m. at River City Metals & Auto Salvage (N3941 State Highway 35), which is located south of Prescott in the town of Diamond Bluff.

The initial call dispatched Prescott Fire, followed by mutual aid requests for Ellsworth and Red Wing Fire Departments.

Initial reports warned of oxy-acetylene tanks in the structure exploding with an exterior propane tank being threatened.

In a news release from Ellsworth Assistant Fire Chief Syd Hardy, he said when they arrived there was “heavy fire and dark smoke” coming from the structure.

Not long after, Ellsworth Fire implemented Mutual Aid Box Alarm Systems, which is a mutual aid measure that may be used for deploying fire, rescue and emergency medical services personnel in a multi-jurisdictional and/or multi-agency response. This was the first time the measure was used in Pierce County.

This prompted tenders and fire crews from multiple agencies to respond.

Langer said the MABAS is a pre-planned system used by fire departments that rates an incident's severity on a scale of one to five. One is the least severe with five being the most severe. Langer said the severity of this fire was a three.

There was no one inside at the time of the fire, according to Langer.

One witness reported the main office for the business was housed in a separate, temporary-type building and didn’t appear to have been affected by the fire. The blaze was expected to burn for quite some time, given the “run-on nature of the pole buildings” housing the place, the witness said.

Langer said due to the numerous amounts of hazardous materials in the building and the makeup of the structure, trying to control and put out the fire was difficult.

The crews cleared the scene at 5:18 p.m. and used an estimated 130,000 gallons of water, according to Hardy’s news release.

The Wisconsin State Patrol had closed Highway 35 south of County Road E in the town of Diamond Bluff for two to two-and-a-half hours, according to Langer.

Pierce County tax records list the property owner as William F. Holst III.

An Ellsworth Fire Facebook post thanked departments that assisted “with our Pierce County Division 156 MABAS Box 92-2-2 to the 3rd Alarm,” including Prescott, Red Wing, River Falls, Hudson, Plum City, United, Lund, Roberts, Spring Valley, Elmwood and River Falls and Ellsworth EMS.

Hardy said 100 firefighters responded; 45 of them from Ellsworth Fire Department. One Ellsworth firefighter was transported to the Mayo Red Wing Hospital. Langer said the firefighter was sent due to overexertion and was treated and released “before suppertime.”

The cause of the fire is still undetermined.

Regional Editor Sarah Young contributed to this report.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism. 

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