Many questions remain in French Island warehouse fire

The fire caused millions in damages

Officials have ruled out suspicious activity but are still determining the cause of a massive fire at Omaha Track warehouse. The fire started at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday morning in the town of Campbell, destroying the warehouse and ruining millions of dollars’ worth of equipment. Now that the damage is done, Omaha Track executives and fire officials are turning their focus to what’s to blame.

“The firefighter said it was like 1,400 to 1,700 degrees,” said Rich Lincoln, manager of tie operations with Omaha Track.

That’s more three times the temperature of a normal camp fire, and that level of heat, completely destroyed the Omaha Track warehouse, even melting the equipment the company uses to grind old railroad ties into wood chips. Those high temperatures have not helped the investigation, either.

“The fire marshal came through yesterday and he did an investigation, and he said with the heat involved it’s very hard to pinpoint a source of the fire,” Lincoln said.

Town of Campbell Fire Department officials believe flammable materials inside the grinder likely ignited.

“There is always residue from the chipping process that happens that’s pretty much where we got it laying right now,” said Matthew Van Loon. assistant fire chief of the Town of Campbell.

But Omaha Track officials are less certain.

“We try to clear it as best we can,” Lincoln said. “With all of the residue that’s inside there, you can’t get to everything, of course, but we do a procedure every night to prevent this situation from happening.”

One thing that is for sure right now is that the cost of the damage is high.

“Two to 2.5 million dollars, probably. With the time and the cleanup and all the hours, it’s probably going to reach over that,” Lincoln said.

The Wisconsin state fire marshal’s investigation is ongoing. In the meantime, Omaha Track is working on cleaning up the site. It spent hours removing debris from the area, Wednesday, and is working closely with fire departments to make sure any hot spots workers uncover are contained.

A private investigation with Omaha Track’s insurance company is also being done.