Major Fires

Spectacular Fires 1919 through 1990

  • The Menomonee Falls High School burned to the ground on June 27, 1919. Flames spread so rapidly that it became a mass of ruins within an hour after the alarm. It is believed to have started from burning materials in the incinerator, igniting the wood shingle roof of the main structure. With little or no water to fight the fire, firemen and residents could do little but watch it burn. In an effort to save contents and records, a young man, Elwood Burkhardt, was severely burned. His rescue was fast, he even walked to first aid, but 36 hours later he died.
  • On June 5, 1940, a fire caused by defective wiring destroyed the theater. It burned down again years later.
  • On July 26, 1946, a terrific blast caused the most disastrous havoc in the history of the village and many escaped death or injury. A terrific gas explosion, heard for miles, shook the entire village and completely destroyed Held's Café and Bowling Alley. Glass was shattered from windows on many nearby businesses, and Caesar's Plumbing and Heating, next door, was blown from its foundation and totally destroyed.
  • The night of September 29, 1956 brought a group of 1,000 polka dancers to a halt as the Bert Phillips Ballroom known today as the Schwabenhof burned. Lighting the sky for miles and sending flames 100 feet into the air, this fire required the help of the Butler and Lineny fire departments to bring under control.
  • A fatal fire on December 14, 1967 claimed the life of seven-year-old Polly Reed and hospitalized two of the girl's ten siblings.
  • A pre-dawn fire on January 17, 1969 destroyed the Falls Cleaners. The fire caused an estimated loss of over $150,000, and started in the attic and burned for some time before reaching the ground floor.
  • A wax heating device was responsible for starting a fire that destroyed a portion of Holiday Cup located on Nor-X Way. Units arriving shortly after 10:02 p.m. were greeted with heavy fire that took five departments to handle. The fire was contained to the warehouse and part of the production area thanks to firewalls. At the height of the fire, between 5,000 and 6,000 gallons per minute were being dumped on the blaze.
  • A spectacular fire destroyed the Westbrook Lanes on March 14, 1983, causing in excess of $1 million in losses, the highest dollar amount in village history. Sixty-five firefighters from three departments battled the blaze. Arson was determined to be the cause, as the fire was started in several locations throughout the building. No one was injured. Five engines and three aerial ladders were deployed, 700,000 gallons of water were used, and over 5,650 feet of hose laid.

Spectacular Fires 1991 to Present

  • Improper maintenance and installation of ductwork were the causes of a grease fire at the Honey Bucket, a popular tavern and social club on February 2, 1991. The building was built in 1892 and was full of antiques and historic photographs.
  • In February 1993, an arson fire at Memories on Main floral shop gave the firefighters quite a bit of excitement when a backdraft blew out the upstairs door and windows. This historical building was burned too badly to restore but luckily their were no casualties.
  • During the early morning hours of February 3, 2003, a fire claimed the life of an elderly woman on Shady Lane. The fire started in a bedroom where the victim was found and was caused by an overloaded extension cord running under a rug.
  • The sky was lit up on the night of April 2, 2003, when the Waste Management Landfill off Highway Q received a "hot load" which later started a large fire on the top of the landfill. It took personnel and equipment from all four stations and tankers from Germantown, Lannon, and Lisbon to control the four-hour blaze. Over 75,000 gallons of water were used, half of which was trucked in by tankers.
  • July 6, 2009, at 0732 hours, Truck 2773 was dispatched to Cudahy on the 5th Alarm for a large industrial fire at the Patrick Cudahy meat packing company. Truck 2773 was positioned on the west side of the building pumping their ladder pipe until 5:30 p.m, 1,000 gallons per minute for 8.5 hours. Later in the morning the Rehab Trailer and Chief Hevey was requested to the scene on a special call. This fire burned for three days and became the largest industrial fire in State of Wisconsin history.
  • On the frigid morning of December 27, 2009, a police officer on patrol reported a home at W209 N5490 Goetz Court well involved in fire. Dispatch informed crews while en route that the large single family dwelling was well involved in fire. Box 27-7-1T was transmitted to the first box alarm level. Units from Menomonee Falls, Lannon, Sussex and Germantown responded. Temperatures were in the single digits. Due to low water pressure in the fire hydrants servicing this area, an upgrade to 2nd box level for tenders was made. It took crews almost two hours to contain and control this fire. The house started to collapse from the fire shortly after first units arrived on scene. Crews used the ladder pipe on Truck 2772 and a deluge gun from Lannon to attack the fire. Multiple hand lines were also utilized.
  • On June 4, 2013, at 3:33 p.m, a neighbor reported a house fire at W217 N5514 Taylors Woods Drive. Arriving units on the scene reported smoke and fire showing from the basement window of a two-story, single family dwelling. Crews were notified shortly after arrival that a person may still be in the home. The fire was brought under control at 4:15 p.m. Unfortunately, the fire claimed the life of a young male in his early 20s.
  • The hustle of the noon rush hour on October 5, 2012, was disrupted by a large plum of heavy, black smoke coming from the Shady Lane Nursery at W172 N7388 Shady Lane. The fire quickly involved a work building and partially extended to four other buildings. Due to the location of the fire, a quick attack using the ladder pipe on Truck 2772 helped contain the fire. Most of the buildings were loaded with Christmas flowers being nurtured for the upcoming season. The fire quickly escalated to a 3rd MABAS Box Alarm due to the lack of fire hydrants at the the south end of Shady Lane. Crews from Menomonee Falls and surrounding communities had the fire under control at 12:53 p.m. The fire was confined to the center of the building. Fire crews assisted in relocating the flowers in an effort to preserve them for the Christmas Holiday.
  • On December 4, 2012, at 3:38 p.m, heavy smoke was discovered coming from a Horse Barn located at W220 N9110 town Line Road. While responding to the call, dispatch reported multiple calls of a fully involved barn. The incident was upgraded to a Box Alarm 2nd level. Units from Lannon arrived first on the scene and found a "L" shaped barn 70 foot by 200 foot well involved. Command requested MABAS Box 27-12 to be upgraded to the 3rd Box Alarm level. Twelve water tenders and three engine companies provided a 2,000 gallon per minute attack for one hour. All the horses were removed safely from the barn by workers prior to the fire departments arrival.
  • January 30, 2013 at 9:Noon, the Rehab Trailer responded with a "Strike Team" of Tenders from MABAS Division 106 (Waukesha County) to Burlington (MABAS Division 102) for a large industrial fire at Echo Foods. The strike team stayed on scene for five hours. On January 31st, at 8:30 a.m, Squad 2776 responded with a MABAS Division 106 Task Force to Burlington. A.C. Burgess (Chief 2702) also responded. This fire consumed a 70,000 square fppt industrial building. Temperatures hovered near zero during this fire. 90 fire departments responded to this incident over a sixteen hour period to replace firefighters and fire apparatus. This fire resulted in the largest MABAS responses in the history of the Wisconsin MABAS program.