Janesville firefighters burn down homes to make room for new fir - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Janesville firefighters burn down homes to make room for new fire station

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Janesville (WKOW)-- A project more than 20 years in the making is one step closer to becoming a reality. Monday morning a few dozen Janesville firefighters burned down the first of seven homes to make room for a new fire station in the 300 block of Milton Avenue.

"It has been a long time coming. Ever since I've been on the fire department they've said station one is going to be replaced, so don't get too comfortable," Janesville Deputy Fire Chief Bill Ruchti says. "I've been here for 24 years. That's how long we've been talking about this."

The current facility was built nearly 60 years ago and sits less than a block away from the site of the new one. Firefighters say the old building is landlocked so all of the nearby houses have to come out.

Of the 12 houses that need to be removed, seven have been sold to the city and are scheduled to be burned down. Two others are still occupied by families who are looking for a new place to live. Two more homes will be picked up and moved from the neighborhood. The fate of the 12th and final house is still up in the air. A group of community members is arguing that the house is historic and needs to be protected.

For the most part, neighbors have come around to the idea of moving out of the neighborhood. The proposed site for the new fire station initially drew criticism and controversy, but firefighters say most homeowners are happy with how the process played out.

"The initial shock was very shocking to those people, but at the same time I think the city treated them well and worked with them a lot," Ruchti says.

Former resident Krista Piper can agree to that. Her old home was the first to be burned down Monday morning. She and her family stopped by to watch the fire department conduct training exercises in the house.

"I was glad to get out of it, but now that I'm here it's kind of sad," Piper says.

The family lived in the old house for three years and says most of the houses in the neighborhood were old and in need of repair.

"Now that it's all said and done I'm very happy where we are now we have a really nice house," Piper explains.

The current fire station is just two doors down Piper's old home. Her front yard will soon become the parking lot of the new station. Over the next few weeks the fire department will burn down six more homes as they conduct training exercises to train their new recruits. Piper's stepson will be amongst the new trainees. The 15-year-old is a part of the Janesville Fire Department's Explorer Program.

"It's going to be great getting inside these homes for a realistic training. It's strange that it's my old home, but it's still a good learning experience," Braden Burger says.

Construction for the new fire station will start in mid-2015 with a tentative completion date of 2016. The facility will cost taxpayers $9 million to build, plus the added costs of purchasing and relocating the 12 homes. Firefighters say the new site will give them a central location where they can maintain their quick response times.

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Janesville (WKOW)-- A project more than 20 years in the making is one step closer to becoming a reality. Monday morning a few dozen Janesville firefighters burned down the first of seven homes to make room for a new fire station in the 300 block of Milton Avenue.

The new fire station will be built just a few houses down from the current station, which will soon become a parking lot once the project is complete. Besides the seven homes that will be burned down five other homes will also be torn down or relocated during the project. Two homes are still occupied and two others are being moved. The fate of the last remaining home is still up in the air as the owner is claiming that it's a historic property that needs to be protected.

Tonight on 27 News at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. Gordon Severson shows us the fire in action and talks to the family who used to live in the home being burned down.
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