Fire engulfs Appleton restaurant, apartments

APPLETON, Wis (WBAY) - Fire crews from several Fox Valley fire departments are fighting a smoky fire in downtown Appleton.

Flames jump from the windows of a burning building in downtown Appleton on March 13, 2019. (WBAY Photo)

Firefighters were called to the building at the corner of N. Appleton St. and W. Washington St about 2:15 a.m.

The two-story building is home to Author’s Kitchen + Bar on the first floor, and several apartments on the second floor.

Eight people who live in the apartments got out safely. Some of the residents told Action 2 News that they woke up to the smell of smoke.

Fire crews found smoke on the second floor, then more smoke on the first floor. They found a natural-gas fueled fire burning in the restaurant's kitchen.

Battalion Chief Joe Strauss says that was a dangerous situation for firefighters, so they backed out of the building and started attacking the fire from the outside.

"Our crews then went to the first floor restaurant, and encountered heavy smoke and flames in the kitchen," Strauss says. "The fire then went into the walls, then the firefighters realized it was a natural gas fueled fire, which is very dangerous for firefighters so our firefighters backed out and then we went to a defensive attack."

Ladder trucks were used to pour water on the fire from above, trying to protect neighboring buildings.

"We're at the point of trying to extinguish the fire completely, and to prevent it from extending to other buildings," Strauss said on scene. "Right now there's a fire wall between the fire building, and the building next door, which is holding, so we're concentrating on that area to make sure the fire's not extending."

Our crew on the scene says the smoke was very heavy, and that made it hard to see what was happening, but flames could be seen jumping from windows from time-to-time.

Investigators have been unable to enter the building due to the extent of damage. The roof collapsed on the second floor apartments.

Firefighters tell us no one was hurt.

Police say special agents and the deputy state fire marshal from the Wisconsin Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation are working to find the cause of the fire.

Action 2 News will keep you updated on this story.