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Police: Menasha mill walls unstable, could collapse

Published: May. 2, 2021 at 9:06 PM CDT|Updated: May. 3, 2021 at 4:41 PM CDT
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MENASHA, Wis. (WBAY) - A piece of Menasha history was destroyed when a massive fire ripped through the former Whiting paper mill.

Crews were called to the scene at 100 River Street at 7:29 p.m. Sunday. Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue called in mutual aid and 123 firefighters responded to help at the scene and respond to other calls for service in the area. It took them hours to put the fire out, and danger remained.

“The walls and structure are extremely unstable and could collapse at a moments notice,” reads a post on the Police Department Facebook Page. “We urge people to stay away from the property from a legal standpoint and a personal safety aspect. River St is barricaded to traffic. Water St remains open to vehicle traffic but please recognize it is a narrow street with many residences. The Loop the Lake trail remains open for pedestrians but you must remain on the trail. The video shows several people escorted away by an officer just as a wall collapsed creating a fire ball.”

CLICK HERE to watch video of the fireball.

There were no reports of injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation. Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue says the investigation will likely take several days.

The paper mill stood on an island in the city of Menasha since 1882, but after Sunday’s fire what remains isn’t salvageable.

“Another great loss to Menasha history, the Whiting Mill is up in flames,” said Menasha Mayor Don Merkes in a statement on Facebook.

Another great loss to Menasha history, the Whiting Mill is up in flames. NM Fire is on scene protecting neighboring properties.

Posted by Mayor Merkes on Sunday, May 2, 2021

While the commercial fire in Menasha is under control and crews are returning in service, staff will remain working...

Posted by Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue on Monday, May 3, 2021

The mill shut down in 2016.

We’re told police have responded to the vacant building over the past several years for reports of trespassers, but it’s too early to tell if the fire was intentionally set or an act of nature as there were thunderstorms, with lots of lightning, in the area before the fire started.

Both Menasha police and the local fire marshal are investigating.

”Right now it’s going to be more if there was any events happening prior to, did somebody see a lightning strike or checking things like that. They can’t get into the building and there’s not a lot of the building left inside. You can still see walls standing, but a lot of the building inside is all collapsed in on itself, so it’s a pretty -- if you’re going to really get into it -- it’s a pretty lengthy process to do it,” Ryan Krings of Neenah-Menasha Fire/Rescue said.

In 1888, sixteen men were killed in an explosion and fire at the mill.

In 2018, fire engulfed the historic Brin building in Menasha. The cause of that fire was determined to be electrical in nature.

Monday night, members of the Menasha City Council voted to begin a process which would declare the former mill a blighted property. CLICK HERE for the related story.

Crews are currently on scene at a structure fire in the City of Menasha.

Posted by Neenah-Menasha Fire Rescue on Sunday, May 2, 2021

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