Milw. Co. Courthouse, Safety Building closed after electrical fire

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele says the Milwaukee County Courthouse and Safety Building will be CLOSED on Monday and Tuesday, July 8th and 9th following a weekend electrical fire. This is a move that will likely affect thousands, from those who work in the buildings to jurors, witnesses and defendants scheduled to appear.

In a statement Sunday, Abele said: "The Milwaukee County Courthouse and Safety Building will be closed on Monday and Tuesday, July 8th and 9th , after a fire caused some electrical and smoke damage over the weekend.  The Milwaukee Criminal Justice Facility, including the jail, remains open.

Milwaukee County facilities staff has been working closely with the Milwaukee Fire Department and We Energies to assess and repair the problem. Crews are inspecting and cleaning the affected areas of the Courthouse complex for safety.

    As of Sunday, there was power at the Milwaukee County Jail, and the Courthouse and Safety Building were running on generators.

    "We`re not gonna open the building until we`re sure that there isn`t a risk," Abele said.

    It is unclear at this time what caused this fire, but in a media briefing Sunday, County Executive Abele pointed to an aging HVAC system.

    "Obviously, this will prompt a redo of a lot of the electrical in this building. Some of the equipment is a little older than it should be. In the last two years, we've spent a lot of time trying to catch up and modernize, and we're getting to things as fast as we can," Abele said.

    The small electrical fire near the Milwaukee County Courthouse Saturday afternoon, July 6th caused a power outage at the Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office Communications Center.

    The Communications Center began running on back-up power and initiated its emergency plan, including transferring 911 calls to the Waukesha County Sheriff's Communications Center.

    "Any 911 call on a cell phone that goes to Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office is re-routed to our center and we pick up those 911 calls and determine whether to transfer them back to the Sheriff's Office or any of the other departments in Milwaukee County," explained Waukesha County Dispatch Supervisor Christine Bannister.

    Waukesha County called in two extra dispatchers to keep up with the extra calls.

    The Milwaukee Fire Department says in order to safely put out the fire back-up generators had to be shut off, causing the power outage at the courthouse and dispatch center.

    "What we found was an underground vault, a control vault, with fire burning in all the control panels down there," said Milwaukee Fire Department Deputy Chief Terry Lintonen. "Any time you're dealing with underground power vaults in the downtown area, that's a very significant event."

    It took about 50 firefighters to extinguish the fire, which was put out by 3 p.m, however Waukesha dispatchers continued to handle calls from Milwaukee County.

    "My staff is absolutely trained to handle emergencies everywhere," said Bannister.

    "There's no drop in service. Calls are still being answered and meanwhile, we're working as fast as we can do get things back up and running," Abele said.

    We Energies says electrical equipment in the courthouse suffered heavy damage from the fire.

    While the County Courthouse is closed, the City of Milwaukee Health Department is open to serve residents for birth and death certificates. You can find more information by calling 414-286-3516 or visiting