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UPDATE: Fire consumes garage

A neighbor saw heavy smoke billowing from a detached garage at 715 W. Walnut St. and called 911, bringing multiple fire trucks and at least a dozen firefighters to the scene to battle flames inside the structure.

Witnesses and bystanders at the scene say no one was inside the building, and no people were injured.

County property records show David W. and Hattie L. Vandervorst as owners of the home and garage; on-scene officials and bystanders said Tim Wolff rents the home and garage from Vandervorst.

Neighbors said Wolff used the garage to do car repairs and called the loss "devastating."

The initial fire call came at 12:50 p.m. and said the garage was located at 114 S. Winter St., which is actually the address of a neighboring home a few feet from it.

Firefighters spent time cutting holes in the garage's two overhead doors as well as through the back end from which the smoke was emanating. As they could, firefighters also pulled out tires, barrels and other materials.

When they heard the urgent beeping of their oxygen tank, they'd have to rotate out to the street for a refilled one before continuing their work. After about 40 minutes, the smoke began to dissipate.

River Falls Fire Department deployed several trucks, and personnel from the Police Department and Ambulance Service also responded, as well as Ellsworth Fire and the River Falls Municipal Utility.

More details will be reported as they become available.


Assistant River Falls Fire Chief Mike Moody said later in the day that Wolff had just installed a wood-burning stove in the garage and used it for the first time Thursday morning.

Moody said, "It is believed the fire started in the ceiling," mostly likely where the stove pipe connects to the roof.

Brown smoke emanated from the fire as insulation between an old wood and new tin roof, burned but struggled for air and smoldered.

Moody confirmed that firefighters pulled a barrel of oil from the garage before it had a chance to ignite. He said Wolff may be able to salvage some tools and equipment but calls the building a total loss.

An unofficial estimate of the damage, said Moody, is about $40,000.

When firefighters had extinguished the flames, they brought in a backhoe to tear down the front of the garage so as to open access to it. Responders had not wanted anyone going inside due to waste oil that could have ignited and a car on a hoist that could have been unstable.