Fires Wednesday morning ravaged two west-central Wisconsin properties, destroying a mobile home in the Eau Claire County town of Ludington and a barn and two smaller buildings at a rural Osseo farm belonging to Wisconsin Public Television host Inga Witscher.
Witscher, who’s hosted “Around the Farm Table” since 2012, said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that although she and her husband, Chase Orth, are devastated by the loss of the barns as well as three calves, they’re overwhelmed by the support the community has shown them
“We’re just overwhelmed by the outpouring of love from our community,” Witscher said, choking up. “We’re overwhelmed with gratitude for everything firefighters give up to help people like us.”
Witscher said it wasn’t until about 8 a.m. that she and her husband looked outside and noticed the fire at their organic farm at N45354 south of Osseo. They had been at an event late Tuesday, and the cows weren’t producing milk now, so they were sleeping in.
Then, they heard neighbors outside, honking over and over again.
“We looked outside, and we just saw flames everywhere,” Witscher said. “And within an hour, it was all just gone.”
Osseo fire Chief Nels Gunderson estimated Witscher’s largest barn is about a 90 percent loss.
“We saved what we could of the barn,” Gunderson said. “The barn was already fully involved when I got in the driveway.”
On the bright side, Gunderson said no one was injured and there was limited livestock loss, as the cows had all been outside at the time. The cause of the fire is not yet known.
Witscher said she and Orth were planning to soon begin producing cheese in the smaller barn that burnt down.
“Our whole income was basically wiped out,” Witscher said. “Going into winter, that’s such a loss, and it’s horrible. But then I think about what’s happening in California (dozens of people have died and thousands of structures were destroyed in a series of devastating wildfires) and it puts it into perspective, you know? We’re safe, all the animals are safe, we lost three cows, but we are very, very fortunate.”
Another blaze, in the Eau Claire County town of Ludington, ravaged a mobile home earlier Wednesday, leaving it a total loss.
Fall Creek fire Chief Jamie Kaeding said the department responded to a report of a mobile home on fire at about 1:30 a.m. on a private property at N1345 Highway XX, a few miles northeast of Fall Creek, not far down the road from the Watering Hole bar.
Everyone made it out safely except for a dog, Kaeding said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the cause of the fire remained unknown, though Kaeding said he suspected the cause was related to the home’s heating.
The fire led the Eau Claire County sheriff’s office to briefly close Highway XX down to one lane of travel.