Blaze destroys Woodcrafters; Waupaca recovers from fire

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Century-old timbers and wood floors inside areas of the former William Tell Woodcrafters building fueled a massive afternoon fire Feb. 24 that consumed the interior of the former woodworking plant and sent brick walls tumbling onto Seventh and Pestalozzi streets.

Firefighters could do little to slow the spread of flames but were able to keep the intense heat from spreading to nearby buildings, including the historic Obrecht house and the Hearth.

Flames were seen shooting out of the building, already in the process of being razed, shortly before 2 p.m. and quickly spread. Flames were dying down by 3 p.m. with little more than brick walls standing. A dark plume of smoke rose from the scene.

Demolition of the newer 1960s-era concrete-block portion of the Woodcrafters complex began before the fire, but work had not reached the oldest areas. Destroyed by the fire were portions of the old Southwestern Furniture Co. built in the 1800s.

Waupaca Fire

Teams of ThyssenKrupp Waupaca employees planned to work through the Independence Day weekend assessing damage caused by a July 1 fire at Perry County’s largest employer.

None of the plant’s employees were injured in the blaze which began in the foundry’s melt department at 11:38 a.m. Arriving firefighters found a towering plume of black smoke over the foundry, which produces gray and ductile iron castings. Employees watched as flames peeked through areas on the far east side of the plant. Smoke subsided as firefighters tackled the blaze but flames could be seen in areas for several hours.

Repair crews worked quickly in coming days and weeks and the plant was soon back in full production.