Alert firefighter spies fire, saves dog

Checking on smoke he saw, Schmidt finds Town of Port house on fire, pushes dog out door

PORT WASHINGTON FIREFIGHTERS found a house on Lake Drive in the Town of Port engulfed in flames when they arrived on the scene Friday afternoon. Photo courtesy of Port Washington Fire Department
Ozaukee Press staff

Steve Schmidt was driving on Port Washington’s north side about 4 p.m. Friday when he noticed a plume of dark smoke in the distance, so he decided to check it out.

“I figured someone was burning something they shouldn’t be,” he said. “This was some pretty heavy black smoke.”

Schmidt, Port’s assistant fire chief, said that as he drove north on Highway LL, the smoke kept getting heavier and heavier. And when he turned onto Lake Drive and headed east, he ultimately saw brown smoke coming over the road.

And that’s when he saw a house on the far east side of Lake Drive on fire.

“I saw fire through the roof of a house,” Schmidt said. “I was envisioning finding a bonfire.”

The fire, he said, was burning “pretty well” on the first floor, in the attic and along the home’s two roof lines.

He called the fire in and ran to the front door.

“I hollered to see if anyone was there,” Schmidt said. Hearing nothing, he headed to the back, where a large dog ran out at him, then headed back into the house.

Schmidt said he returned to his car, got his gear and moved his vehicle so it wouldn’t impede responding fire trucks, then headed to the back yard again to try and get the dog out.

He ran into the house and checked the lower level, but the heat and smoke kept him from getting to the first floor.

So Schmidt tried to get the dog out, but the animal wouldn’t move. By then, the woman living in the home had arrived and called for the dog, who still resisted. Finally, with Schmidt pushing him from behind, they got the animal out.

“He was really scared,” Schmidt said.

By then, the fire department arrived on the scene.

“The house was pretty well involved,” Fire Chief Mark Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who said he called in a second alarm on his way to the scene after learning the fire was in the town, noted that the fire was moving fast. Ultimately, it went to a third alarm.

It was too involved to get inside and fight the fire, he said, so firefighters set up several hose lines to attack the fire and when the Fredonia Fire Department’s ladder truck arrived they positioned it in the driveway, where they could pour water onto the blaze.

“We were behind the eight ball from the get go,” Mitchell said, noting  firefighters had to take a largely defensive position because the house was so involved.

Once they got the bulk of the blaze knocked down, firefighters went inside and cleaned up what was left of the fire, Mitchell said.

It took about 70,000 gallons of water to extinguish the blaze, Mitchell said, noting eight tankers brought water to the scene from the hydrant near Allen Edmonds on Port’s north side.

Firefighters got the bulk of the fire out in about 45 minutes but were on the scene until about 7:30 p.m., Mitchell said.

The cause of the fire is undetermined, but isn’t believed to be suspicious, he said, adding the house, which is owned by Lake Road Properties, is a total loss.

  Departments from Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Waubeka, Belgium, Cedar Grove, Random Lake, Mequon, Thiensville, Newburg and Cedarburg responded to the fire, as did the Milwaukee Fire Bell Club and We Energies.

Sheriff’s deputies were also on hand to help with traffic control, Mitchell said.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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