Nearly four months after a fire destroyed a historic building in downtown De Pere, clean-up efforts are almost complete.
“To see this all cleaned up just kind of puts the entire thing behind us,” De Pere Fire Chief Alan Matzke said.
According to Chief Matzke, clearing the rubble was delayed due to a lengthy investigation into the cause of the fire.
“The whole investigation and mitigation process with the insurance companies took quite some time,” he said Monday, standing beside the now-empty lot.
The cause of the fire was ultimately labeled as “Undetermined” by the State Fire Marshall.
Although the official cause of the fire doesn’t necessarily lend itself to closure, Chief Matzke says he hopes the clean-up helps the city heal.
“I think it was painful just to see this pile of rubble and everything that they owned sitting here,” he said, referring to the tenants who lived on the upper level of the building, “so this again hopefully will bring closure to those that lost so much.”
Christian Brewer, who is a co-owner of Poppy Avenue Boutique and Poppy Avenue Beauty Bar, both located just down the street from the scene of the fire, says she’s glad the debris is gone.
“To drive by that every day, just remembering the moment that they lost it all was really hard,” she said. “We’re really grieving as a community.”
Brewer remembers the morning of the fire.
“As a business, it was scary to think that that could happen to anybody,” she said, “and to wake up in that reality is unimaginable.”
Brewer says she knows some of the displaced residents and businesses well.
“There were so many businesses in that building that we worked really closely with, and our customers lived above those in the residential apartments,” she said. “As a community as a whole, we’re really close-knit and so we all felt for them.”
Now that the visible scar has been removed from Broadway Street, Brewer says the community can start to move on.
“Having it gone, we’re able to kind of move forward and start a new leaf officially,” she said. “A lot of the businesses are saying they’re making a comeback, so we’re really excited to support them when they do.”
As for the lot, Chief Matzke says it will eventually be sold for redevelopment. In the meantime, grass will be planted on the land.