Tree service firm carries on after blaze

Hoppe employees back at work two days after fire causes extensive damage to Town of Grafton property

A MORNING BLAZE last Saturday destroyed a storage building at Hoppe Tree Service on Arrowhead Road in the Town of Grafton. Owner August Hoppe said his 16 employees were able to return to work on Monday, and he plans to rebuild at the site. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
JOE POIRIER
Ozaukee Press Staff

An early morning fire Saturday, Jan. 4, that caused extensive damage to a Town of Grafton tree-service business didn’t stop workers from returning to work this week.

“Everybody came to work on Monday. We are able to go out and service our clients,” said August Hoppe, owner of Hoppe Tree Service.

“We’re in the process of getting everything put back together like the way it was before.”

At approximately 3:25 a.m. Saturday, the Grafton Fire Department received a call of a building fire on Arrowhead Road.

“As we responded, we saw a sizeable orange glow in the sky about a mile away,” Grafton Fire Chief Bill Rice said.

When crews arrived, Rice said, the building where equipment and vehicles are stored was engulfed in flames. The storage building held three vehicles and equipment such as saws, skid-steer loaders and safety equipment.

“We couldn’t save anything. It was too far gone before we were called,” Rice said. 

“Even though we were able to extinguish the fire, it was a total loss.” 

Three vehicles inside were destroyed and several others parked close to the building were damaged. 

“Fortunately, our newer chip trucks and chippers were parked outside, and they escaped the damage,” Hoppe said.

Hoppe said the facility is a satellite-dispatch location for the West Allis-based company, which also does milling at the Grafton location. 

“The kiln was destroyed, but the mill is able to run,” he said, noting 16 employees work at the site.

Fifteen area fire departments responded to the scene, with about half of them sending water trucks. 

“It was a huge fire, and we needed a lot of water tenders to flow the water,” Rice said.

Nobody was at the business when the fire started. One Grafton firefighter was transported to the Aurora Medical Center in Grafton and later released, Rice said.

The cause of the fire is undetermined. Rice said it does not appear to be suspicious. 

“We have an idea where the fire started, but even with that it will almost be impossible to determine what exactly started the fire due to the extensive damage,” he said.

Rice said it is also difficult to estimate the damage.

“My guess is it would be in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars because all of that equipment adds up,” he said.

Hoppe said he plans to rebuild the storage building.

“We actually have plans for a new building to be constructed this month,” Hoppe said.

“I didn’t think we would be building our new building and have to worry about rebuilding our old building. I guess that’s what we’ve got to do.”

The company has been in Grafton since 1986 and provides services to customers throughout the county. Hoppe said he has received an outpouring of support since the fire.

“The outreach from our neighbors, community and partners within the industry has been so amazing with how everyone has provided support for us through this time,” he said.

“The neighbors offered us coffee and emotional support. They even opened up their homes for us when we showed up to survey the damage.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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