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80 fire departments battle, contain 8-alarm blaze in Wisconsin

Crews fight a huge fire in Burlington, Wis., at a food processing plant on Thursday, January 31.
Crews fight a huge fire in Burlington, Wis., at a food processing plant on Thursday, January 31.WTMJ-TV

A raging eight-alarm fire at a southeastern Wisconsin food processing plant that drew more than 80 fire departments was mostly contained Thursday afternoon, officials said.

The fire that had ravaged the family-owned Echo Lake Foods plant in Burlington, Wis., since about 6:05 p.m. Wednesday was out except for a few hot spots, Burlington Mayor Robert Miller said Thursday.

Miller said the plant had been evacuated safely and there were no injuries to either employees or firefighters. Police evacuated 10 homes in the area and one apartment building, Miller said.

More than 80 fire departments from several counties in Wisconsin responded to the scene, taking turns to control the blaze. The Racine Hazardous Materials Unit was also on the scene monitoring air quality because the plant contained ammonia and liquid oxygen tanks, Burlington City Administrator Kevin Lahner said.

Since temperatures hovered around 15 degrees while the fire burned, firefighters were rotated in and out.

Fire department personnel that had been dispatched were released back to their departments, and nearby residents that had been evacuated were allowed to return to their homes, Lahner said.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation Thursday and there were no estimates of damage, Lahner said.

Echo Lake Foods makes egg products and breakfast foods and is the third largest employer in Burlington with more than 300 employees. Burlington has a population of about 10,000 people.

Last week in Chicago, more than 200 firefighters battled a five-alarm blaze at an abandoned warehouse. Freezing temperatures left six to eight inches of ice on the building's exterior as the fire within rekindled several times.