UPDATE: Fire in Richland Center

UPDATE:  Suspect now faces 8 counts of first degree reckless endangerment.

Joen Fazel

UPDATED Monday, April 6, 2009 --- 3:10 p.m.

Joen Fazel is now charged with nine felonies.

Fazel is accused of starting a fire that devastated downtown Richland Center last Tuesday.

Fazel is charged with one count of arson to a building and eight counts of first degree reckless endangerment.

Her preliminary hearing is set for next Wednesday, April 15 at 1:30 p.m.

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UPDATED Friday, April 3, 2009 --- 11:55 a.m.

RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. – April 4, 2009 – Due to an overwhelming response from company colleagues and vendors, Associated Bank’s Richland Center branch will reopen for routine banking services today, April 3 at noon, three days ahead of schedule.

The branch was forced to close after an early morning fire raced through two adjacent businesses on Tuesday, March 31. The original reopening was scheduled for Monday, April 6. Crews and colleagues worked day and night getting the branch ready to serve customers within 72 hours.

Banking Hours:
Today noon until 5:00pm
Saturday: 9:00am until noon
Monday: 11:00am until 5:30pm
Normal banking hours will resume on Tuesday, April 7.

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UPDATED Thursday, April 2, 2009 -- 9:20 p.m.
By: Barclay Pollak

Her day in court.

The woman accused of starting a fire that devastated downtown Richland Center was in court Thursday.

She fell through the cracks. That's what neighbors and people who knew 61-year-old Joen Fazel are saying about her this evening. Now, the woman who they say had mental health problems, could spend a very long time behind bars if she's convicted.

"I'd actually told my father a week ago that she's going to burn the place down."

Not that long ago, Joen Fazel told her landlord, Barbie Hillushiem, that she'd be out of her two bed room apartment by March 31st.

She did get out of her apartment. Allegedly, in the process she put four other people on the streets, as well.

"She was not approachable. I tried a couple of times to ask her if she needed help."

Christopher Van Horn and his girlfriend only lived in the building for a few months. Van Horn says he never really saw Fazel leave her apartment. "She was definitely a shut-in. You could tell when she'd come out of her house because the hallway would smell really bad."

But, recently she decided to move. She was in the process of selling her belongings to make some cash. That's according to Richland County's District Attorney.

"It'll be a session we take up in the matter of the case of Joenna M. Fazel."

Thursday in court, he also said she wasn't having a lot of success doing that.

That's when she got frustrated, lit a piece of newspaper and walked away.

"She stated it was not her intent to harm anyone else just to burn the building down and she expressed remorse for what she had done."

Bond for Fazel was set at $100,000 cash. Van Horn and Hillusheim were in court for the bail hearing.

They both say they're not mad at Fazel they just want to see her get the help she needs.

No one was injured in the fire. The building is a total loss, however.

Fazel is due back in court on Monday. She is tentatively charged with one count of arson.

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UPDATED Thursday, April 2, 2009 --- 4:20 p.m.

Cash bond has been set at $100,000 for the woman arrested in connection with a fire in downtown Richland Center earlier this week.

61-year-old Joen Fazel lived in one of the four apartments destroyed by the fire. The flames also destroyed three businesses.

Fazel's bail was set high because authorities consider her a "flight risk."

They claim Fazel has said she wants to leave the area and was in the process of selling her assets.

She faces a tentative charge of felony arson to a building, as well as other charges.

Fazel is due back in court on Monday.

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UPDATED Thursday, April 2, 2009 --- 9:15 a.m.

RICHLAND CENTER POLICE DEPARTMENT
Press Release
April 2, 2009

Chief of Police John Annear reports that an arrest has been made in connection to the fire that destroyed a building in downtown Richland Center early Tuesday morning.

According to Annear, Joen M. Fazel, 61 of Richland Center was taken into custody late Wednesday afternoon after a two-day investigation into the circumstances surrounding the fire. Fazel was a long time resident of one of the four apartments on the 2nd floor of the destroyed building in the 100 block of East Court Street.

The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation assisted the Richland Center Police Department and Richland Center Fire Department. Investigators were at the fire scene Wednesday morning and it was determined that the fire originated in the apartment occupied by Fazel. Joen Fazel was taken into custody after being interviewed by officers Wednesday afternoon.

Joen Fazel is currently being held in the Richland County Jail. She is tentatively charged with Arson to a Building, a class C felony.

On the morning of the fire, Annear states that the occupants of three of the apartments were able to evacuate safely after one of the tenants discovered smoke and awoke the occupants of the other apartments. Arriving responders were advised that Joen Fazel, the only occupant who was not accounted for, was most likely still in the building. A police officer, sheriff’s deputy and firefighters entered the building in an attempt to find Fazel. Although they were met with heavy smoke and fire, they were able to enter Fazel’s apartment, but could not find her. She was located in the downtown area approximately 50 minutes after the fire was first reported. Because of the time of day with residents in the building and first responders entering in an attempt to find Fazel, Chief Annear believes it is very fortunate there was no loss of life associated with this fire.

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UPDATED Thursday, April 2, 2009 --- 12:30 p.m.

From Associated Bank:

RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. – April 1, 2009 – Associated Bank’s Richland Center branch will reopen for routine banking services at noon Monday, April 6. The branch was forced to close after an early morning fire raced through three adjacent businesses on Tuesday, March 31.

Even though the branch office sustained significant smoke and water damage, inspections indicate that the building itself is sound. While complete repairs will take some time, contractors are working around the clock to finish the clean-up in time for Monday’s opening.

The fire was reported shortly before 5:00 a.m. at the Music Shop Building on Court Street. The building houses three family-owned businesses. The Richland Center Associated Bank branch shares a common wall with that building.

Cleaning and repairs to the Richland Center branch are already underway. In the meantime, customers can access accounts through the still-functional ATM at the Richland Center branch, by utilizing online banking services or by calling Associated Bank’s 24/7 Customer Care at (800) 236-8866.

Associated branches are located in the neighboring communities of Reedsburg at 750 Viking Drive, Phone: 608-524-1873 and Viroqua at 825 N. Main St., Viroqua, WI 54665, Phone: 608-637-8201

Any updates to this information will be shared with local media, posted on www.associatedbank.com and available through Associated Bank’s 24/7 Customer Care.

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UPDATED Wednesday, April 1, 2009 --- 11:15 a.m.

Press release from the Richland County Emergency Management:

The State Fire Marshall continues to assist the Richland Center Fire Department and the Richland Center Police Department to determine the cause of the blaze that burned 3 businesses and displaced 5 individuals yesterday morning. No injuries were reported, but The Music Shop, The Frame Corner, and The Palace Barber Shop received significant damage. Damages are expected to exceed $750,000.

Richland County Emergency Management, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army continue to assist the 5 individuals that have been displaced from the 4 apartments which were located above the downtown businesses. These individuals did not have renters insurance.

The 4 alarm fire was responded to at 4:41am yesterday morning by the Richland Center, Muscoda, Spring Green, and Lone Rock Fire Departments. Over 500,000 gallons of water were used to extinguish the fire. The fire departments were assisted by Richland County Emergency Management, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the Richland Center Police Department, Richland Center Street and Utilities Departments, WE Energies, Site Excavation, and dozens of volunteers. The clean-up effort continued throughout the day.

Mayor Larry Fowler reported that it is still too early to determine the total economic impact of the fire to our downtown area. The three businesses that have been affected have been successful for a long time, and are an integral part of our community. We hope that the building can be reconstructed in the very near future.

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UPDATED Tuesday, March 31, 2009 --- 1:00 p.m.

The American Red Cross Badger Chapter responded Tuesday morning to assist five residents who were displaced by a fire that destroyed a four-unit apartment building in Richland Center.

Three trained American Red Cross disaster relief workers responded to the blaze at 8:45 a.m. and provided assistance for food, clothing and lodging.

None of the residents had renter’s insurance.

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Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 --- 10:05 a.m.

Press release from the Richland County Emergency Management:

Richland Center Fire Chief Bob Bindl announced that the Richland Center Fire Department received a call at 4:41am this morning to respond to a downtown fire. No injuries have been reported, but 4 apartments and 3 businesses have been affected. The Music Shop, The Frame Corner, and The Palace Barber Shop received significant damage.

The Red Cross has been called in to assist the 5 individuals that have been displaced from the 4 apartments which were located above the downtown businesses.

The Richland Center, Muscoda, Spring Green, and Lone Rock Fire Departments responded to the fire, as well as Richland County Emergency Management, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Richland Center Police Department, and the Richland Center Street and Utilities Departments.

All downtown businesses are open excluding those affected by the fire. The city block on Court Street remains closed at this time as they continue working on clean-up operations.

No cause has been determined. The Richland Center Fire Department and Richland Center Police Department have requested assistance from the State Fire Marshall.

Mayor Larry Fowler announced “this is a sad day for Richland Center. The fire this morning has left a big void in our downtown. Our heartfelt sympathy goes out to all those touched by the fire.”

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Posted Tuesday, March 31, 2009 --- 7:30 a.m.

From NBC15 Photojournalist Mark Schilling:

Right now firefighters are battling a blaze in downtown Richland Center.

It appears a barber shop and frame gallery are a total loss.

The building is located just off the corner of Court Street and Central Avenue.

There are no reported injuries.

Officers urge drivers to stay away from this area.

Stay with NBC15.com for continuing coverage throughout the day.


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