Two Historic Superior Buildings Flattened after Frigid Firefight

Firefighters were faced with challenges left and right from the two warehouse buildings' immense size and the dangerously cold air.

SUPERIOR, Wis.- Ash was strewn throughout the City of Superior as two historic Superior warehouses on the North End burned to rubble, a challenge to crews battling the tall flames on the chilly Thursday morning.

“Certainly, ‘dangerous’ is the first word that comes to mind,” Superior Fire Chief Scott Gordon said.

Officials were forced to shut down the Blatnik Bridge to traffic for roughly an hour, because of the thick smoke blinding drivers.

In addition to the 11 crew members working initially, 13 off-duty firefighters were also called in.

“When the first crews got here they knew right away the fire was what you call out of control,” said Chief Gordon. “Too big for us to commit people inside a structure like this and try to make an offensive attack.”

Firefighters were faced with challenges left and right from the two buildings’ immense size and the dangerously cold air.

“The threat certainly was to them right away for what they were dealing with the massive nature of the building,” Gordon said, “very dangerous fighting fires in the cold and its magnified when the buildings are this large.”

The fire spread to the second building quickly, the chief said, due to radiant heat.

“That first building that caught on the east was so hot and as it started to collapse it’s pulling down the electrical wires which limited our ability to get water in there,” he said, “we are not in a part of the city where we have a great water supply as well.”

The aging wood and contents of the buildings burned into ash which flew as far as two miles away.

“We are going to see ash we are going to see debris there’s no reason to believe that is unsafe folks should just stay out of the area don’t spend a significant amount of time outside,” Superior Mayor Jim Paine said.

According to Mayor Paine, the fire threw a wrench in talks and plans to repurpose the first of two buildings that burned. “We’ve had a lot of economic development discussions especially with the more Eastward building the one that initially started on fire.”

“That was almost turnkey ready for development and it sat right on one of our working slips so it had access to the water and there was a lot of opportunity, a lot of which is now lost,” said the Mayor.

For firefighters, the image was a flashback to the Globe Grain Elevator fire just nearby, and most notoriously, the Husky Refinery explosion — both happening within the past three years.

“We certainly learn from all of our experiences this is not an avenue we want to get better at by experience however we would be foolish to not learn from our experiences,” Chief Gordon said.

Fire crews expected hotspots to continue burning through Thursday night, as citizens watch two pieces of the city’s history reduced to rubble.

“This is priceless,” said Mayor Paine, “these buildings are irreplaceable we can never build like this again.”

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