Bayfield Community Helping 8 Displaced Recover from Ashes of Saturday Apartment Fire

The building was one of the oldest in the city, and the only affordable housing in the small tourist town.

BAYFIELD, Wis.- After a massive apartment fire Saturday, it was a bleaker Easter Sunday in Bayfield as residents drove by to look at the burnt-down remains of one of the town’s oldest structures — and only affordable housing unit — while helping the displaced rise from the ashes and try to get back on their feet.

Bayfield Fire Pic 5“I saw some smoke coming up from there and I thought this looked like a big bonfire, it wasn’t that much smoke and then I don’t know, the building just went up like, I don’t know, it went up fast,” said Mary Dougherty.

After those intense flames, a pile of still-smoking rubble was all that was left of the building on Broad Street and Manypenny Avenue Sunday.

The call came in around 12:45 Saturday, with crews from 7 different agencies responding to the fire in the heart of downtown.

When they arrived, the building was fully engulfed, with its 8 residents safely outside.

“Bob Marshal the guy who takes care of the building for me called and he said he didn’t even have time to put his shoes on,” building owner Neil Schultz said.

Crews took until 6 p.m. controlling the flames, keeping them from overtaking the neighboring building.

“The winds were, 15-20 mph out of the east so wind hampered our firefighting efforts,” Chief Jeff Boutin of the Bayfield Volunteer Fire Dept. told FOX 21 over the phone while on-scene Saturday.

The fire destroyed one of the small town’s oldest structures, originally the New Brunswick Hotel, located on the waterfront.

Bayfield Fire Annalisa

Photo: Annalisa Bermel

It was moved to its present location in the year 1900, pulled by horses and rolled on logs.

It spent its more than 100-year history under several different owners and uses — including a brief lease with Pabst Brewing and a grocery store.

“A lot of the older people in Bayfield remember that store from him it went to Red Bates who had a meat market there from him to Lindahl who was a commercial fisherman from him to Al Preros, Al Preros to me 50 years ago,” said Schultz.

When the lifelong Bayfield resident took it over, he turned it into affordable housing.

He said he put about $200,000 over the last couple of years into restoring the historic architecture and was planning to start more work inside.

“At my age, I’m not going to rebuild,” said Schultz. “But I hope whoever gets it can do something that’s a compliment to the city.”

At the time of the fire, he said residents were older or working in the hospitality industry. “We had wonderful renters all hard workers. Substantially affected by the COVID,” Schultz.

“I’ll be surprised if any of them are going to be able to live in Bayfield,” he said.

“They don’t know I mean literally it’s like I would imagine that having, losing everything in a fire, it’s something like being stuck in a blender and having everything turned upside down,” said Dougherty.

Dougherty is the Executive Director of CORE Community Resources up the street, a nonprofit in town that helps the aging, and provides a food pantry. “That outpouring of support is really a constant stream up here.”

She led the charge helping collect donations at the encore resale shop up the street.

“I woke up this morning to a whole bunch of texts on my phone and people sending me emails how to help. And it runs the gambit from ‘I have an armchair I don’t need,’ to, ‘do you need some cash?’,” said Dougherty.

But she said the community soon has to start channeling their generosity into finding more permanent solutions in the tourism-centric town of less than 500.

“They need shirts and pants but they also need houses they need places they can afford to live and that’s something that Bayfield County generally speaking and the City of Bayfield is really struggling with is affordable housing,” she said.

Also a county board member, Dougherty said she plans to meet with the Mayor and other officials Monday, before sitting down with the victims to decide what mutual aid for the displaced will be going forward.

“We can’t really answer that question until we speak with the folks that were displaced,” she said. “Because they were the ones that know what they need, they’re the ones that are going to need the time to figure out what they need.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

CORE Community Resources encourages people to reach out to them at info@corecr.org or call 715-779-3457, for more updates on how to help.

Along with core community resources providing clothing and food, Andy’s IGA Grocery Store and Manypenny Bistro feed everyone on scene.

The Bayfield Inn provided housing for the next two nights, and Windseeker Rentals provided additional lodging.

Categories: Community, News, News – Latest News, Public Safety, Wisconsin