RIPON, WI (WTAQ) - Apartments and businesses in downtown Ripon were heavily damaged after a three-alarm fire early Wednesday.
The first call came in for the blaze on Watson Street around 2:30 a.m.
Crews battled the flames for over five hours in bitterly cold temperatures.
"It was too far ahead of us to put our guys in there and knowing everyone was out that was the mode we took,” Ripon Area Fire District Chief Tim Saul told FOX 11.
Saul says crews from as many as 20 different departments helped fight the fire. And all that water use put a strain on the city's water system.
"We were flowing over 5,800 gallons a minute at one point and we had to go to different fire hydrants to be able to supply all those ladder trucks that were flowing water, we couldn't flow all that off of one hydrant,” said Saul.
Twenty-six people who were displaced by the fire are being helped by the Red Cross. The Ripon Chamber of Commerce is collecting donations for those affected by the fire. Click here for donation locations and a list of items needed.
Saul says investigators won't be able to enter the damaged buildings until the daytime on Thursday. It may be awhile before we know what sparked the blaze.
(Additional reporting from FOX 11)