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Saloon fire kills four

Authorities found four people dead after an early-morning fire at the Silver Dollar Saloon in Blanchardville early Dec. 21. The tavern owner died while trying to save three others who were killed. Authorities said 45-year-old Daniel Hardekopf was found in a stairwell on the lower level of the three-story building, and he died later at a Monroe hospital. His 44-year-old girlfriend, Jelayne Hughes, was found on the second-floor apartment level, along with two of the couple's mutual friends: 34-year-old Brian Monte and 23-year-old Cody Olson. The fire was reported just after 3:20 a.m. Monday. The Wisconsin State Journal said Monte and Olson were staying in the couple's apartment after a night of poker and watching football. Duane Hanson, the building's insurer and a long-time friend, said Hardekopf leased the bar for a year-and-a-half. And he was in the process of buying the 106-year-old building. Hanson told the paper it was no surprise Hardekopf died while trying to save the others - because he'd sacrifice himself to help anyone. One witness told firefighters he saw Hardekopf go back into the burning building, trying to save his girlfriend and the other two men. Hardekopf's body was found five feet from the front door. Damage from the fire could exceed $300,000. The fire was thought to have started on the second floor, but the cause has not been determined. Federal and state agents are helping local authorities investigate. Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley says it was a major effort to contain the blaze, with emergency responders from multiple agencies helping. Pedley says it's the worst tragedy he's ever seen.