Chopper 4 raw video/Photo gallery

Building collapses after five-alarm fire near downtown Milwaukee

CREATED Jun. 20, 2012 - UPDATED: Jun. 20, 2012

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  • See coverage by TODAY'S TMJ4's Vince Vitrano and Melissa McCrady. Video by wtmj.com

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  • Smoke drifting over I-43 from 5 alarm fire at 12th & Vliet.

  • Photo: Justin Perkins

  • Photo: Justin Perkins

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

  • Photo: Arthur Carson

Click on associated video links for Chopper 4 and TODAY'S TMJ4 raw video from around the fire scene.

MILWAUKEE - About 150 firefighters are battling a five-alarm fire near downtown Milwaukee at a building that has collapsed.

Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion Chief Sean Slowey told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jon Byman and Jay Sorgi that one firefighter was injured while fighting the fire.

A man who talked to TODAY'S TMJ4's Melissa McCrady said he worked as a butcher in a grocery store called Food Castle that was inside that building.

It is across the street from the Coggs Human Services Center on the corner of North 12th Place and West Vliet Streets.

"We turned on the lights, turned on everything, and something just started sparking," said the butcher. in the interview with McCrady.

"When the guy was taking the garbage out, he saw smoke from the side of the building.  It's the only way we found out it was on fire.

"I didn't know what to do...I was like, 'Man, c'mon now, not today.' "

"Still a shock to me, how it even happened...I didn't now what to say, I didn't know what to do.  I'm out of a job...it's crazy because I want to come back to work."

The fire began just before 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning. 

At about 10:15 a.m., Chopper 4 showed part of the south side of the building that had collapsed.

By 10:25 a.m., three unmanned ladders and a manned ladder were using fire hoses to battle flames on the northwest side of the building.

Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Dan O'Donnell then said at 10:50 a.m. that firefighters were in a controlled-burn mode.

"This building is coming down," a firefighter told O'Donnell.  It did around 11:30 a.m.

Milwaukee Deputy Chief Randall Zingler said no people were hurt during the building collapse.

The firefighter who was injured had what Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing described as "slight" injuries, and his injuries came from a fall.

Firefighters had to battle the fire from a defensive position, due to the severity of the fire.

Zingler told TODAY'S TMJ4's Melissa McCrady that there were combustible items inside the vacant building.

"Huge smoke in front of the door," Song Vang, who works in the Coggs building, told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jodi Becker.

"You can smell it.  They have the front doors closed so that the smoke cannot come into our building."

Vang said that firefighters were trying to break down part of the building's wall to help in getting smoke out of the building.

"They have hoses right there.  They were earlier hitting the wall to get into the building...they were breaking the top wall so smoke could (escape) the building."

Milwaukee Fire Department staffers told Byman they expected firefighters to be on scene battling the fire for a long time on Wednesday.

"Obviously its a very warm humid day, were going to have to have a lot of people here and a lot of resources, companies in and out to keep them from suffering heat exhaustion," Fire Deputy Chief Zingler further told McCrady.

Suburban fire departments assisted other Milwaukee fire stations when their regular firefighters went to battle the fire at 12th/Vliet.

The fire was visible from I-43 as drivers were heading north or south from downtown Milwaukee.

Smoke was causing visibility issues for drivers.  Drivers were said to be coming to a stop due to the smoke.

Milwaukee Police officers were closing streets near the area.

The Milwaukee County Transit System said it was providing an air-conditioned bus for firefighters to get relief.

The Coggs center closed for the day.  A nearby furniture store had smoke billow into their store.

"The safety of people...when we found out nobody was hurt, we thanked God," said the owner of the furniture store.

A nearby homeless shelter, Repairers of the Breach, had about 80 people served in air conditioning during the fire.  They did not have to evacuate.

MCTS was also re-routing two bus routes.
- Route 12 Northbound: 12th Street to Highland, west to 17th Street, north to Walnut Street, east to 12th Street, north on regular route
- Route 12 Southbound: 12th Street to Walnut, west to 17th Street, south to Highland, east to 12th Street, south on regular route
- Route 33 Eastbound: Vliet Street to 17th Street, south to Highland, east to 10th Street, north to Winnebago Street, back to regular route
- Route 33 Westbound: Winnebago Street to 10th Street, south on 10th to Highland, west on Highland to 17th, north on 17th to Vliet, back to regular route

Check back for more details on this breaking news story as they come in to us.