(Metro Wire photo)

Minor damage in Thursday morning fire

By Brandi Makuski

Residents were allowed to return to their home after a malfunctioning HVAC system caused portions of a building to fill with smoke on Thursday.

Portage Co. deputies blocked off the road as Stevens Point firefighters responded to 3717 Minnesota Ave. shortly after 6 a.m. on April 11. The incident prompted a Metro Fire response, which also summoned crews from Plover and Hull to the scene.

A Metro Fire response is standard protocol whenever smoke or flames are reported in a structure. Plover crews arrived quickly, but the response from Hull was canceled before they reached the location.

Upon arrival, Stevens Point Fire Department Chief Jb Moody reported that smoke was visible outside the home, which is situated next to Feltz Lumber, and that the occupants had already evacuated.

SPFD deployed its ladder truck, and collapsible ladders were also positioned around the home.

Moody explained, “The way the smoke was showing, we thought it was potentially an attic fire, that’s why we put the ladders up.”

Firefighters encountered dense smoke on the first floor and in the basement, requiring them to pull down part of the ceiling to ensure there was no fire in the attic. Moody noted that in older homes with blown-in insulation above a permanent ceiling, fire can “creep” from one joist to the next, making it necessary to conduct thorough investigations.

After a detailed inspection, firefighters determined the malfunctioning HVAC system in the basement was the source of the smoke.

“You could tell; you could smell there was a fire,” Moody said, “but we were able to contain everything to the basement.”

Crews had also laid out several tarps in preparation for removing items from the home — “One of our goals is property conservation, as much as possible,” Moody said — but they proved unnecessary.

Moody said that the residents would be able to return to the home, which sustained only minor damage, but emphasized the need for immediate servicing of their HVAC system.