Three people were taken to the hospital late Saturday night with injuries sustained when a second-story apartment floor collapsed in a historic building in downtown La Crosse.
Firefighters responded to a 911 call shortly after 11 p.m. that someone had fallen through the floor in an apartment at 135 S. Sixth St.
As firefighters were responding, dispatchers received reports that up to 50 people may have been in the apartment, prompting the them to increase the number of vehicles sent to the scene to five, including an urban search and rescue vehicle.
All of those inside the apartment had escaped by the time firefighters arrived, but first responders treated three people for injuries. Tri-State Ambulance took them to Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries.
The names of the injured were unavailable, so the hospital was unable to provide condition reports Sunday night.
The collapse involved a 30-foot-by-30-foot area, according to the fire department.
City building inspector Brent Thielen condemned the structure after evaluating it at about 1 a.m. Sunday. He turned jurisdiction over it to the building’s owner, Nate Brooks of the town of Campbell, who had been called and went to the scene.
“There is lots of structural damage,” Brooks said during an interview at the scene Sunday afternoon, when he had returned to check the building in the daylight. “It might be repairable, but it’s hard to say."
Five tenants occupied the six-bedroom apartment, said Brooks, who declined to name them and said he did not know who was injured.
The apartment spans two storefronts in the 1913 building, designated as a historic site in the city as the original location of the Trane Co.
The side of the building below the collapsed area is a vacant commercial space, Brooks said.
“I was using it as my own personal storage space,” he said. “I had thousands of dollars of stuff down there that I am sure is garbage now” under the rubble from the collapsed floor.
“I’ve heard that 50 or more were partying in the apartment, which is something I definitely do not approve of,” Brooks said. “I’m sure they’re all in their early 20s, if not late teens."
He declined further comment until he is able to talk to the tenants, the fire department and the insurance company.
The one area of the building that is not condemned houses the Vitamin Studio, an art studio that has classes and provides work space for artists.
Vitamin Studio owner Matt Duckett, who was out of town this weekend for a wedding, had a friend enter his store Sunday morning to check for damage. Although the power was out, no ceiling damage or other problems were apparent to the friend or the Tribune reporter who accompanied him.
Firefighters possibly averted a potential explosion when they detected a natural gas leak at the rear of the structure Saturday night.
“Fire crews turned off the gas meter to secure the leak and metered for explosive gas,” according to the fire department’s news release. “Quick action in turning off the gas meter prevented a possible fire or explosion."