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Glenhaven will rebuild; details still sketchy

Icicles still cling to the west side of the largest and least damaged building in the Glenhaven complex early Sunday morning, Jan. 19. (Photo by Steve Dzubay)

GLENWOOD CITY -- It took just two emergency meetings within hours of the Jan. 14 fire being extinguished for the non-profit Glenhaven Nursing Home’s board of directors to decide to rebuild the badly damaged 44-bed complex.

Administrator David Prissel said Eau Claire-based Royal Construction will continue to serve as general contractor and they will be able to salvage some portions of the charred remains.

An investigator with the State Fire Marshal's office, an agency supervised by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, spent time at the scene but apparently was unable to pinpoint the cause.

"It would appear the fire started in the attic area, and we expect to classify the fire as undetermined (When the cause of a fire cannot be proven at an acceptable level of certainty, it is classified as undetermined.)," said Dana Brueck, DOJ communications officer in a written statement.

"The scene has been released to the owners and/or the insurance company. There’s nothing to suggest the fire was criminal or suspicious in nature," she concluded.

It's hoped insurance will cover much of the loss, but Prissel said a recovery fund has been established at the local branch of Hiawatha National Bank. Some significant gifts have already been received.

Contributions can be mailed to Hiawatha National Bank, 220 E. Oak St., Glenwood City, WI 54013. For more information, call the bank at (715) 265-4211.

Prissel said Glenhaven residents -- like many others in the Glenwood City community -- were devastated by the loss.

"There were a lot of sad faces in the building," he said, expecting residents are disappointed by having the move to a new, contemporary facility indefinitely delayed.

Prissel said the fire also suspends job prospects for up to 10 additional staff members who were to have been hired to operate a cafe, tavern, theater and day-care facility planned for the new facility. It also disappoints the many volunteers who regularly visit and help at Glenhaven, he said.

Residents have tried to lose themselves playing Bingo -- on the day of the fire and each day since. On Friday, Glenhaven staff was hosting a Hawaiian Luau, which had been planned before the disaster.

Prissel said he's hopeful the rebuild will solidify the support he and others have continued to receive from the community.

Because Glenwood City's municipal water supply offered only enough capacity to supply water for one fire pumper, officials activated a process known as "MABAS" or the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System which helps assure emergency responders have the resources necessary to fight a major fire or provide aid in time of a disaster.

The system took shape statewide when the Wisconsin Legislature passed Senate Bill 642 and it was signed into law by Gov. Jim Doyle in 2006.

Glenwood City falls within the Dunn-Pepin County jurisdiction, overseen by a member of the Sand Creek Fire Department.

Participation in the mutual aid program is voluntary. Equipment, personnel or services provided under MABAS are at no charge between municipalities. Expenses recovered from the responsible parties are MABAS WI equitably distributed.

In addition, emergency personnel that respond remain employees of their initial department or agency, according to information on the MABAS website.

Responders to the Glenwood City fire came from four counties, hauling well over 100,000 gallons of water. An exact figure was unavailable.

A full-page ad in this week's edition of the Glenwood City Tribune Press Reporter offered appreciation to the many fire departments, ambulance services, Red Cross workers, law enforcement officers, city and county street crews and Glenhaven staff for helping in some way.

The ad listed 37 different fire departments, six EMS agencies and other entities that sent equipment, personnel or both.

It was estimated more than 170 firefighters were on-scene at some point, bringing with them 81 pieces of emergency apparatus. Ladder trucks from Menomonie, River Falls, Amery and Baldwin assisted.

The newspaper noted in a front-page story that the first alarm was turned in by a Glenhaven employee arriving about 5 a.m.

Steve Dzubay

Steve Dzubay has been publisher at the River Falls Journal and Hudson Star Observer from 1995-2016. He holds a bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. He previously worked as a reporter-photographer at small daily newspapers in Minnesota and is past editor of the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal.