UPDATE: Watson St. in Ripon re-opens for business after fire

UPDATED Friday, February 14, 2014 --- 12:33 p.m.

From our news partner, WLUK in Green Bay:

RIPON – Closed since a fire destroyed two buildings and damaged a third in downtown Ripon, Watson Street, the city’s downtown “Main St.” will reopen today.

The Dec. 11, 2013 fire destroyed the buildings at 310 and 312 Watson St. A one-block section of the downtown has been closed ever since.

Today, work to brace the two buildings slated to be demolished is being completed. Public Works Director Travis Drake says the road will be open by early afternoon.

It will be a welcome sight for businesses after two long months of frustration.

“We have seen a decline in business and it has been a couple of months now since the fire was and we are looking forward to getting the street open again,” Ripon Drug co-owner David Gitzel told FOX 11 last week.

City Administrator Lori Rich said the delays were caused by a longer than expected fire investigation by the insurance company for the two buildings. Rich said the owner of the buildings, Boca Grande Capital, backed out of a deal last week to brace the buildings to get the street reopened. She said the city then decided to do the work and bill Boca Grande for the expenses. The cost for the bracing was estimated at $8,300.

Representatives of the company have not returned calls for comment and Rich said she does not know what the time frame is for the company to demolish the buildings.

Drake told FOX 11 once the street is reopened, the demolition is up to Boca Grande Capital.


UPDATED Thursday, February 6, 2014 --- 9:45 a.m.

From our news partner, WLUK in Green Bay:

RIPON – Two downtown Ripon buildings destroyed by fire in December are coming down.

The main street through downtown will soon be reopened, not a day too soon for businesses struggling to get by.

Breakfast is cooking, but fewer customers than usual are coming into Kristina’s Family Restaurant in Ripon. That’s because part of Watson Street, Ripon’s “Main Street” has been closed since a fire destroyed two buildings across the street in December.

“Me happy, just being people come in and they eat breakfast and lunch,” said owner Rasim Atila.

And the conversations over coffee are about what might replace the buildings that will soon be torn down.

“I also hope they can rebuild the fronts as they are or save them because I wouldn’t want to see the downtown motif spoiled with something brand new,” said Bill Wingen of Neenah.

But what exactly will happen is still a question many people have. Boca Grande Capital, the company that owns the businesses did not return our calls for comment.

Ripon City Administrator Lori Rich said the company sent the city this email Wednesday.

In it, Rich says Boca Grande is backing out of an agreement with the city to brace the two buildings so the street can be reopened.

The company cites safety concerns.

The work can finally be completed after Boca Grande’s insurance company finished its fire investigation last week. The insurance company initially told the city it would take a month after the December 11 fire.

But when that deadline came and went, Rich said the city was prepared to step in.

“The fact that it went on a couple of extra weeks, we were starting to get concerned, so we are glad that their investigation ended and that we are able to move forward.”

And businesses like Ripon Drug that are struggling with the loss of foot traffic say reopening the street can’t come soon enough.

“We have seen a decline in business and it has been a couple of months now since the fire was and we are looking forward to getting the street open again,” said store co-owner David Gitzel.

And the longer that takes the more the frustration felt by many in the community continues to grow.

Rich said the city will reopen Watson Street as soon as the bracing work is finished.


UPDATED Friday, December 13, 2013 --- 12:25 p.m.

RIPON, Wis. (AP) -- Ripon's police chief says there's no evidence of a crime in the fire that destroyed three buildings in the city's historic downtown.

Chief Dave Lukoski said Friday the cause of Wednesday's fire remains undetermined, but that there's no evidence of an intentional criminal act. He says numerous accidental causes can't be eliminated as of yet.

Federal and state agents joined local authorities in the fire investigation. Ripon Area Fire District Chief Tim Saul says ice coating the buildings has made it difficult to investigate. He says stability of the buildings is an issue and walls will be taken down piece by piece.

The fire displaced nearly two dozen upstairs apartment tenants.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


UPDATED Friday, December 13, 2013 --- 9:27 a.m.

RIPON, Wis. (AP) -- Ice that coats three buildings destroyed by fire in downtown Ripon is hindering the investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Propane heaters have been brought in as investigators search the rubble.

Ripon Area Fire District Chief Tim Saul tells WLUK-TV the exterior walls will have to come down piece by piece. Saul says they will pull the buildings apart with heavy equipment.

The fire Wednesday not only destroyed the buildings, tenants who lived in upstairs apartments lost their belongings. No one was hurt in the fire.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


UPDATED Thursday, December 12, 2013 ---- 7:22 a.m.

RIPON, Wis. (AP) -- Ripon's fire chief says quick action by local police officers in a downtown fire likely saved the lives of upstairs apartment tenants.

Ripon Area Fire District Chief Tim Saul says the three-alarm fire that started early Wednesday and burned three brick buildings had the potential to be deadly. Saul says the buildings are old and deteriorated and the upstairs apartments have few exits. Police evacuated 22 tenants from the apartments, including nine children. No one was injured.

Ripon Mayor Gary Will tells Action Reporter Media it's too soon to tell if the damaged buildings in the city's historic downtown can be salvaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


UPDATED Wednesday, December 11, 2013 --- 2:45 p.m.

Donations are being accepted for families affected by a fire in Ripon.

People can donate clothing, money, personal hygiene products and other items.

For a detailed list of items, including clothing sizes, click HERE.

Donations can be dropped off at Traded Treasures Thrift Boutique and the Ripon Community Food Pantry at 102 W. Jackson St.


UPDATED Wednesday, December 11, 2013 --- 8:05 a.m.

RIPON, Wis. (AP) -- Fire has damaged three retail buildings in downtown Ripon and displaced second-floor tenants.

Red Cross officials say the agency is providing services to at least five families who were safely evacuated from the upper floors.

Ripon Fire Chief Tim Saul says the fire started about 3 a.m. Wednesday. About 30 agencies were paged for mutual aid in fighting the blaze.

Action Reporter Media says downtown business owners came to the scene to open their doors and help firefighters warm up in single-digit temperatures.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press


Posted Wednesday, December 11, 2013 --- 7:40 a.m.

RIPON, Wis. (AP) -- Firefighters are battling a three-alarm blaze in the Fond du Lac County community of Ripon.

The fire broke out about 3 a.m. Wednesday in the downtown area. Two or three buildings are involved. The retail buildings have apartments above.

No injuries have been reported. The Red Cross is on the scene.

Copyright 2013: Associated Press

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