Kenosha fire: St. Elizabeth office building uninhabitable

Fire tore through the St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church offices in Kenosha on Tuesday morning, Jan. 31.  

A construction crew that was remodeling the building near 7th Avenue and 48th Street reported the fire around 8:20 a.m. Upon arrival, fire crews found heavy smoke coming from the back side of the office building.

"You couldn’t tell where the fire was coming from," said Jason Matzur, who lives across the street from the church. "It was just one big wall of smoke here."

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Deputy Fire Chief Dan Tilton told FOX6 News the fire started in the basement and spread to other floors. There is damage on all floors, including smoke and water damage throughout, and it is uninhabitable.

"It looks like they had to cut a hole in the roof to get the ventilation. The floor is gone. The back had all stained-glass windows, those are all gone. It’s pretty sad," Matzur said.

Fire at office building on St. Elizabeth's Church property, Kenosha

Church employees told FOX6 that the building is used for offices, the chapel and a convent. Renovations were almost done.

"Father just had an invitation in the bulletin for parishioners to stop in and pray in our beautifully restored chapel," Bill Schmitt, a parishioner of 12 years, said. "It’s going to require a great deal of work to put this back together – and a great deal of time."

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People like Matzur have already put in the time to help. He carried items that were not damage into a different building Tuesday.

"It’s just in my nature, just wanted to see what was going on and if everyone was OK," he said. "It’s pretty sad, but they don’t know if it’s a 100% loss yet, but it looks pretty bad."

Fire at office building on St. Elizabeth's Church property, Kenosha

No one was inside at the time. No firefighters were injured.

The fire was brought under control in about an hour, Tilton said. Officials noted in a Facebook post that traffic in the area was closed for several hours, reopening shortly after 11 a.m. The cold weather had a negative impact on how fire personnel were able to attack the situation. 

The cause is still under investigation but is not believed to be suspicious.