A five-alarm plus fire broke out late Jan. 8 at John’s Disposal in Whitewater.

By Jennifer Eisenbart


A fire at a local garbage and recycling company Jan. 8 resulted in no injuries, but plenty of damage at John’s Disposal recycling center.

After numerous media requests throughout the day Monday, the City of Whitewater held a press conference at City Hall Monday afternoon to expand on the basics of the press release sent out by the city Monday morning.

Shortly before 10 p.m. Jan. 8, a fire broke out at John’s Disposal, 107 Highway U in the City of Whitewater. When personnel responded, the one building was fully engulfed.

The Whitewater Fire Department responded to the scene and began the process of extinguishing the fire, and staff remained on scene through the day Monday containing hot spots.

John’s Disposal said in the release that trash and recycling pickup in the City of Whitewater was expected to remain on schedule, and any potential delays would not be longer than 24 hours.

At a press conference Jan. 9, Assistant Fire Chief Joe Uselding said more than 30 agencies ended up responding, because of the cold, the lack of water on site and the size of the fire.

He said that the Mutual Aid Box System, or MABAS, went to five-plus alarms over the fire.

“We have agreements with numerous other fire departments,” Uselding said. “We have those predetermined in our response area.”

He said departments from as close as LaGrange to as far away as Dane and Kenosha counties responded.

“In this situation, we would not have been able to handle an incident this large,” Uselding said.

Uselding confirmed there were no injuries to John’s Disposal staff or to firefighters. Traffic on Highway U was reopened Monday, but the public was asked to avoid the area.

Uselding said that while the fire was out in the “wee hours” of Jan. 9, there are numerous hot spots that firefighters are still watching.

“This is likely going to be a lengthy incident,” he explained, adding that it will take days to clear the scene because of the structure involved.

That building, a recycling sorting building, has several levels and is partially collapsed, Uselding said.

In addition to temperatures dropping into the low 20s overnight, another challenge was the lack of water on site, with only drinking water available.

Uselding explained that the fire department ran lines to the power plant to the west of the property and also had as many as 15 tenders working at a time to bring water to the site.

In spite of that, firefighters did get the fire under control before it spread to other structures.

The building affected housed not only recyclable material, but recycling equipment like conveyor belts and sorting units.

Uselding said that there is no danger to the public and that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is monitoring any runoff from the incident.

The fire is under investigation, and Uselding estimated that the value lost in the fire is into the millions of dollars.


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