Destructive Fire on Spring Street in Downtown Chippewa Falls, Wis

August 11, 2012 Travis Dewitz

Fires are extremely destructive and dangerous. The raw energy and raging force that a large structure fire unleashes is unmatched by anything you ever see in your daily life. Large fires usually have one or more victims to its devastation. If you want to help, contact your local news agency, Red Cross, or city administration to see if their has been any charities set up to help the victims with their loss.

I’m drawn to fires. My photographic passion for capturing strong emotional moments, power, strength, motion, and action can all be captured on a fire scene. Words can’t describe some of the scenes that can be caused by a fire where as a photograph can tell you that story. A structure fire is a battle of man vs nature. The fire has the upper hand as it has roared to life before anyone has any idea that its destructive force has begun. The first signs of smoke in the air alerts you of  the danger. Once the fire department arrives on scene the fire has firm control of the structure and is reluctant to give up control. It grows and gets stronger faster and faster while the battle lines begin to form outside. Firefighters fight back the flames and extreme heat trying to weaken the awaken monster as it ravages the building that it resides in.  Dark smoke and water vapors flood the air as thousands of gallons of water is forced against the fire from all angles. The battle continues for hours before the flames seem to start to retreat. The fire appears to be taken under control but without warning the flames exploded up and out into the fresh air from its buried hidden lair deep within the structure. A place that is so deep and hot that water can not penetrate it. This happens over and over throughout the siege. The battle continues until man can call it a victory. This victory could have been from the brute force of war but the fire may have just run out of fuel for its extreme appetite. The flames are knocked down and are under control and the victory was that the fire did not spread as far as it would have without the warriors on the ground.

The fire pictured here are from the fire in downtown Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. The fire was called in around midnight August 8th at 15 1/2 Spring Street. The century and a half old building was home to Touch of Class Ink, Hong Kong House, and apartments upstairs. I heard the call on the police scanner in my office at 1am. Being a downtown fire, I decided to make the trip to Chippewa Falls. Fire scenes at night are very powerful when capture in a photograph and there could be a much more historic importance to images that are of a city’s center. Smoke could be seen billowing into the air from 6 miles in Hallie away as I made my way to downtown Chippewa Falls. Once I arrived, I photographed the fire until almost 3am but the fire personnel on scene worked hard into the morning.


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travis dewitz pines portrait suit thumb web PhotographTravis Dewitz is a remarkable photographer in the Chippewa Valley. He is well known for photographing local sceneries, landmarks, venues, buildings and people in various and ingenious ways. Though you not know him personally, his work provides a unique foundation of our local community and his photographs are unmistakable. Dewitz’s pictures are an impressive feat and preserve a moment; long after our travels are over, and our memories faded, photos are what remind us of the adventures we had and the connections to the people we met. Learn more about him here.

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Travis Dewitz

I. Love. Photography. I love it. It lightens my heart, fills my soul, and allows me to capture life the way that I see it. I constantly yearn to show life in a way that hasn’t been seen before, to bring images to people in a fresh and innovative way. My favorite focus in photography, my specialty I guess you would say, is Railroad Photography & Art. Something about the rumbling of these great, big, beautiful machines. The way they shake the earth beneath you as they rumble by, how they invade your chest and you can feel the rumble inside you. The plumes of heat on a hot day represented in a heat wave. Snaking through a western valley, void of trees or any other distracting element. Just the train, by itself, in it’s own inexplicable beauty and power. From the time I was a child, they have captured my imagination. I’ve recently gotten into portraiture a bit, and I want to bring some of my experiences with trains to that arena. To capture the power of a person, the sadness, loneliness, omniscience, pride, love, & carefree spirit in a way that hasn’t been done before. I want people to look at themselves in a photograph I have taken, and see a side of themselves that they think no one else has ever seen. Dewitz Photography is all about capturing a moment in a way that has never been seen before, capturing a beauty that some never knew was even there.

Comments (21)

  1. Michelle 'Brodt' Hockersmith

    These are amazing and powerful. You are a very talented artist!

  2. Pam Bleskachek

    Outstanding photography! It’s too bad that this historic building was destroyed and the business and apartments lost.

  3. Sharon Wylee Scheel

    Lots and lots of good ones in this group, too many to mention, one that sticks in my brain has the plastic bag with something broken/leaking out of it on the sidewalk. It’s got the unexpected.

  4. Thank you everyone. Make sure to pass on your great comments to firefighters and police officers that you know as well. I try to tell their story through my photos. I also see local power company workers at most of these tragic fires like Xcel Energy was, in this photo set.

  5. Heather

    As tragic as this event was, these pictures are truly amazing! Breathtaking, heart stopping moments. The firemen and police officers, I can’t even begin to thank them for helping me and my friend get out of the building. We are forever in debted…

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