"Probably the biggest fire they will see in their career:" Firefighters commemorate Patrick Cudahy blaze

CUDAHY (WITI) -- Saturday, July 5th marked the five-year anniversary of the massive fire at the Patrick Cudahy plant that burned for days. The Cudahy Fire Department commemorated the anniversary by paying tribute to all who served that day.

"It feels like it was an eternity ago, but it also feels like it was just last week or yesterday all in one," Cudahy Fire Chief Dan Mayer said.

Five years ago, 500 firefighters battled what would become the largest fire in Wisconsin's history.

The fire started on the evening of July 5th. It was raging by the next morning -- and burned for the next three days.

The fire caused $50 million worth of damage -- and required the response of 63 departments, and 33 million gallons of water to put it out.

Surveillance footage led investigators to brothers Kurtis and Joshua Popp -- who had fired a military flare as part of an Independence Day weekend celebration.

That flare landed on the Patrick Cudahy plant.

Chief Mayer was on the job for just three months when the blaze began.

"I could say that for many of the firefighters that were on the call those days, this was probably the biggest fire they will see in their career," Chief Mayer said.

"It was a very difficult fire for us to get to. It was a very large fire," Battalion Chief Jeff Bloor said.

Bloor was on the front lines that day, five years ago -- and on Saturday -- he was one of many being honored for his courage and hard work.

Each firefighter who helped to battle the blaze at the Patrick Cudahy plant received an original brick from the plant affixed with a plaque commemorating their role in extinguishing Wisconsin's largest fire.

"That gives a special significant to it. It`s not something you hang on the wall. It`s something that sits on your desk and is a daily reminder of the events," Bloor said.

No one lost their life in the Patrick Cudahy plant fire.

Chief Mayer says he plans to hold a dedication every year to remember the hard work of those 500 firefighters that helped to put the fire out.

The Cudahy Fire Department also swore in three new firefighters on Saturday.

Chief Mayor says it's always a special day when they can add three new firefighters.

Surrounded by family, Jared Kucik says working for the Cudahy Fire Department means so much to him, it was hard to put into words.

"I`ve spent about four years going through school, getting an associates degree and paramedic and EMT -- all those certifications and it`s finally coming together and I`ve got a full-time fire department job. It`s really exciting," Kucik said.

We're told there were dozens of recruits that applied for the job -- but only three were selected.