By Mike Heine/The Week
(Published Dec. 11, 2007, 10:38 a.m.)
Neighbors rescued a cat but were unable to save a 1-year-old black lab named Moto when a Monday afternoon fire gutted a four-bedroom Victorian home at 221 S. Lincoln St.
None of the home’s residents were there at the time. Living there were John and Tracy Hauerwas, their two children, Karen, 5, and Justin, 4, Moto and Butterfly, the family cat.
“Why does this have to happen,” Sharon Hoppe, Tracy’s mother, asked a neighbor at the scene. “It’s a darn good thing it didn’t happen at night. At least we can be thankful for that.”
The fire was reported about 3:59 p.m.
Tracy, a bus driver for nearby Jones Bus Service, was on her way home with her two children when she saw the smoke billowing out of her home. John was at work in Milwaukee.
Elkhorn Fire Chief Rod Smith already was at the scene when Tracy arrived. Flames were coming from the first- and second-floor windows, Smith said.
“The fire burned a while until it communicated outside the building and someone saw it,” Smith said. “Due to the weather and the fog, when it first started, the smoke probably blended in with the fog and nobody noticed until it popped out the windows.”
The fire probably started in the basement ceiling, Smith said. Faulty wiring is believed to be the cause, but that is not yet confirmed.
Firefighters had it under control in about a half-hour and were on scene more than four hours doing overhaul, Smith said.
The structure was sound, but there was heavy smoke, heat and water damage inside. Much of the north and east outside walls were scorched, Smith said.
Almost all of the windows were broken out, and firefighters were throwing charred and water-damaged items out of the second-story windows.
The family, which owned the home about six years, will stay with relatives, Hoppe said.
“We have a big family,” said Hoppe, who assured the family would be taken care of through the holidays.
About 50 firefighters from Elkhorn, the city and town of Delavan, Lake Geneva and Lyons responded. The Racine Fire Bells support unit also was dispatched.
A damage estimate was not available.
A village of Walworth fire truck was involved in a minor car accident on the way to the scene, according to a town of Geneva police report.
The village’s equipment and air truck, a Ford van driven by Safety Officer Kelly K. Kelley, was northbound on Highway 67 near Mercy Walworth Hospital and Medical Center.
Kelley slowed to cross Highway 50 and collided with an oncoming Toyota Highlander driven by Marlene F. Conroy, 58, of Lake Geneva.
Conroy, who suffered minor head injuries, was ticketed for failure to yield right-of-way, according to police.
Neither Kelley, 49, nor fellow firefighter Barry Walstra, 46, was injured, Walworth Fire Chief Andy Long said.
He said the van sustained about $3,000 damage and can be repaired.
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