Happy Hobby store in West Allis damaged following fire

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WEST ALLIS -- Fire crews responded to the scene of a business fire in West Allis Monday night, December 31st.

Authorities say they received a call at approximately 9:45 p.m. regarding a fire at the Happy Hobby store located at 80th and National.  When firefighters arrived on the scene, flames were shooting from the windows.

Laurinda Jones and her family have owned and operated Happy Hobby for nearly 40 years. It was started by her in-laws, but quickly became a part of her life.

"I feel like an era is just gone. We're going away, it's just gone," said Jones. "I started when I was 18. I married my husband and I've been working in the store since I've been 18 years old and it's like your whole life is just gone. Just gone."

At the height of the fire, at least seven other fire departments were called in to assist — including Milwaukee, New Berlin, Brookfield and Greenfield. Getting the flames under control was complicated by single-digit temperatures.

"We have freezing lines, we could burst some of our lines, we could have hydrants that freeze up, our guys could get frostbite," said Martin King of the West Allis Fire Department.

While it is a devastating loss to the business owners, not everyone is sad to see it go. Bob Charles has lived in the neighborhood all his life. He even worked in the building when it was a grocery store many years ago.

"It's been a kind of a neighborhood eyesore and it's with mixed emotions I guess that we see it destroyed," said Charles.

To be clear though, Charles is not against the business, rather the state the building was kept in. Should Happy Hobby rebuild, he says he would be happy to keep them as a neighbor.

Fire officials say the structure is a total loss and will have to be demolished. They estimate the damage will exceed $500,000. As for the cause of the fire, investigators say it may take days to find the source.

Authorities say their biggest concern was the cold temperature. With nearly single digit temperatures officials needed help to relieve firefighters from the cold conditions.

The Milwaukee Fire Bell Club, a group of volunteers that provide food and warm materials to firefighters, is on the scene assisting.

No other details have been released at this time — including the cause of the fire or if any injuries were sustained as a result of the fire.