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Onalaska Fire Department provides mutual aid in La Crosse multiplex fire

By Pauleen Le, ple@wkbt.com
Published On: Sep 11 2013 06:50:15 PM CDT
Updated On: Sep 11 2013 08:43:38 PM CDT

WKBT, News8000.com

La Crosse, Wis. -

The fire at Trane Company, on La Crosse’s south side, and the multiplex house fire at Wall and Rose streets, on La Crosse’s north side, were happening at the same time -- sending the La Crosse Fire Department into a big pinch for resources.

The La Crosse Fire Department could not have fought the multiplex fire without the help of the Onalaska Fire Department.

Both fire departments have a mutual agreement to help each other if one needs it.

While the pile of rubble that’s left from the multiplex fire prove it to be a total loss, both said Wednesday was a perfect example of how valuable mutual aid is.

Jeff Thompson watched from a block away as the La Crosse Fire Department arrived to the multiplex engulfed in smoke and flames, Wednesday morning.

“There was one fire truck here and one squad car,” said Thompson.

Division Chief Jeff Murphy, of the La Crosse Fire Department said that is not the way crews normally respond to a fire.

“Normally, we have crews here with our apparatus and with their equipment within four minutes -- even less at an address like this, and we were bringing crews here without equipment and without apparatus, initially,” said Murphy.

All of the equipment and most of the crew were all still being used to fight the fire that broke out an hour earlier at Trane Company, on the city' south side.

Without enough equipment and crews to respond, Murphy said they were losing the house to the fire fast.

“It was already too far gone when we got here,” said Murphy.

He then called the Onalaska Fire Department for help.

“We received a call for a ladder truck and a command vehicle at about 8 o’clock this morning,” said Troy Gudie, assistant fire chief of the Onalaska Fire Department.

Gudie and his five-person crew came within minutes.

“When I got here, I saw fire venting out of the roof,” said Gudie. “Our assignment was to set up a ladder and assist the Fire Department.”

“It’s important to get a truck crew on the roof, and they were a big help,” said Murphy.

Onalaska fought the fire from the top while La Crosse worked from below and inside.

For about three hours, saving what they could of the house mattered more than the city line between them.

“They know when they need help to call, instead of waiting until it’s too late,” said Gudie.

And they know La Crosse will always be ready to return the favor when the time comes.

Part of Rose and Wall streets were closed for a while as crews worked to put out the fire.

Rose Street reopened at about 11:30 Wednesday morning. Wall Street still remained closed as of Wednesday evening.

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