Building destroyed in five-alarm fire built in 1890

MILWAUKEE — A massive five-alarm fire destroyed a building that’s been standing near 12th and Vliet near downtown Milwaukee since 1890 on Wednesday, June 20th. Firefighters say it was because the building was so old that made the fire so tough to fight.

The fire destroyed Jamal Silmi’s “Food Castle” grocery store. The fire was reported just after 8:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

“When I seen my boss run, I run so everybody got out of there safely,” Willie Warrior said.

Warrior was one of two employees inside the building at the time of the fire.

Thick, black smoke filled the neighborhood before the building collapsed beneath the flames.

Officials say the 90-degree heat, breezy conditions and the age of the building each presented problems when battling this blaze.

“First of all, you’re not going to have modern fire-suppression systems like sprinklers or anything. I know there’s a heavy fire load just by the construction of the building. There’s a lot of wood in a building 100 years ago,” Milwaukee Deputy Fire Captain Randall Zingler said.

Bruce Gay with the Milwaukee Public Library pulled up a picture of the building from 1979 much as it looked before Wednesday’s fire.

“It was originally a shoe store owned by Louis Rippel. It was really kind of a commercial center, so, a real loss,” Gay said.

Officials at the library told FOX6 News the building was built for just $8,000 120 years ago. Today it was valued at just over $90,000!

Wednesday’s fire was the last for Zingler, who is retiring.

“Not that I like to see anybody be displaced or a fire happen, but if it’s gonna happen, I was glad I was there to be a part of it,” Zingler said.

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