(Beaver Dam) Authorities say the controlled burn at Village Glen apartment building 109 was successful. The burn was ordered following a fatal March 5th blast that revealed volatile, homemade chemicals so unstable they first had to be detonated, before the entire building was burned to the ground.
The east and west sides of the structure were ignited by flares at 10:09am Thursday. The flames quickly spread, joining in the middle and then raging for around 90 minutes before everything was reduced to ash and rubble. Beaver Dam Fire Chief Alan Mannel says the flames burned hot enough, around 1600-degrees, to accomplish their goal of decimating any remaining chemicals. Only minor damage to a nearby buildings vinyl siding was recorded during the operation. No firefighters or police officers were injured.
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mannel credited support from neighboring fire units and emergency personnel for the successful burn. He singled out Deputy Fire Chief Matt Christian and Lowell firefighter Andy Caine for their ingenuity in addressing some of the biggest challenges. For example, it was their idea to use large shipping containers to protect a nearby building. Mannel also said that guidance provided from the Incident Management Team resulted a successful operation.
While building 109 is no more, all was not lost. Tenants had originally been told that they would not be able to retrieve any of their personal belongings. The FBI Bomb Squad did a sweep of the property Wednesday for ammunition and other chemicals. That unit was able to retrieve the most valuable personal property of the affected tenants in 13 apartments of the 16-unit complex. Photo albums, family heirlooms and jewelry at first believed to be lost forever were spared from the flames at the eleventh hour.
Mayor Becky Glewen says the tenants of building 109 have been profoundly impacted by the deadly explosion. Glewen was able to meet with the residents while they picked up their belongings and she says it was an emotional experience to see everything so important to these individuals packed up into small containers.
The Beaver Dam Police Department said Thursday night that the mandatory evacuation is lifted for all but two buildings. The Dodge County Health Department, in communication with the State Department of Health, has determined that air quality is not yet acceptable in Village Glen Apartment building 107 and Prairie Ridge. Mandatory evacuations were in place overnight for those two buildings. Officials are looking at the air quality data again Friday morning. Residents of building 107 are being contacted directly by the county regarding overnight shelter information through Code Red notification. Meanwhile, the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over Beaver Dam has been lifted. All roads have been reopened.
People wishing to assist those affected by the explosion are encouraged to drop off any monetary donations at any Horicon Bank location in Dodge County, addressed to the Dodge County COAD / Beaver Dam Apartments. Any non-monetary donations should be dropped off at Saint Vincent DePaul or American National Bank.
Also, a fundraising event is planned Saturday, hosted by the Beaver Dam Professional Firefighters. The event will take place at Tower Lanes from 1pm to 4pm. Two frames will cost $20 dollars and all proceeds will go to the residents of building 109.