Fire at Blue Haven Stables property destroys single rental unit

One occupant sustains minor burn; no animals injured; tack shop and stables still business as usual


On Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, at around 9:20 p.m., Lincoln County Dispatch received a report of a fire at N437 Blue Haven Lane in the Town of Scott, on the Blue Haven Stables property. The farm there consists of a barn/stables, a number of outbuildings, and a tack shop, along with six rental units, and an apartment where owners, Wayne and Sharon Jahnke, reside, set on about 60 acres on the south side of the road plus another 50-60 acres on the north side of the road.

The Merrill Fire Department (MFD) responded. “Upon arrival, crews had fire coming out of windows on one of the outbuildings which was an apartment,” a press release from MFD Chief Josh Klug said. This particular building was central to many of the other buildings, so ensuring the fire didn’t spread, in addition to putting it out, was critical.

There are two apartments in the building that caught fire, an upper unit and a lower unit. The MFD reports the fire was confined to the one structure, and a family member confirmed the fire was contained to the lower unit. “The downstairs is totally burnt out. It’s awful,” Sharon Jahnke said. And significant smoke damage to the upper unit displaced all the building’s occupants.

“I’m just glad Chris got out. He just barely got out,” Sharon said. Chris Jahnke, Sharon and Wayne’s son, was occupying the unit where the fire started. Sharon, Wayne, and Chris had all come home early from playing cards, around 8:30 p.m.

“If we had come home any later than that …” Sharon feared the outcome could have been worse for the upstairs occupants. The three renters who lived in the upper apartment were all home, she said.

Chris was in his apartment, just sitting on the couch, when he smelled smoke, his mother said. He went to investigate. “Chris got up, saw flames in the bathroom, and tried to put it out with a fire extinguisher,” Sharon said.

The flames were originating from a heating fan in the bathroom, she said. “Chris got a small burn on his hand trying to put the fire out, but then it went so fast that the smoke took over. He couldn’t even see.”

He ran outside barefoot in just pants and a jacket and ran upstairs to get the upstairs tenants out, she said.
“Then Chris came running over and said, ‘Call 911 – the place is on fire!’” Sharon said.

“It didn’t take long and the apartment was all flames. From our porch, which is 60 feet, you couldn’t see anything but smoke. Then all of a sudden the windows busted out and then the flames started in,” she said.
Functional fire extinguishers can make the difference
Melissa Jahnke, Wayne and Sharon’s daughter-in-law, said the fire extinguisher her brother-in-law, Chris, attempted to use was faulty. “By the time he found the other one, it [the fire] was too big,” she said. “One thing that is HUGE to convey to everyone … Fire extinguishers,” Melissa said. A functional, working fire extinguisher might have saved the loss of the building and four tenants might still be in their homes. As it stands, Chris lost everything in the fire and is now staying with his son nearby. And the three occupants who rented the upper unit are staying in a local motel.

While Sharon and Wayne have insurance on the building itself, none of the occupants had renter’s insurance to help them replace all the belongings they lost in the fire.

Fast response from many helped limit the damage
The fire is still under investigation, but not suspicious in nature, according to the MFD. The Jahnkes are waiting for their insurance adjuster to inspect the building but anticipate that the building will be a total loss. However, due to the fast response from many units, only the one apartment building was damaged.

Pine River, Corning, and Russell Fire Departments all helped at the scene, MFD said in their release, and Wisconsin Public Service, Tomahawk EMS, and Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department also assisted.

“There were so many fire trucks because they didn’t know if it [the fire] could extend to the barn, or other buildings. This apartment was centered right in the middle of the other buildings,” Sharon said.

Tack shop still open for business
Wayne Jahnke is thankful and grateful no one was seriously injured and that the fire was limited to the one building. “There are two other apartment buildings that were never touched, the barn was never touched, the horses were never in jeopardy, no animals were injured, and everybody got out of the apartment ok, with the exception of the minor burn on Chris’s hand,” he said.

The lower apartment “was completely demolished, totally damaged” and “the other all smoke damaged,” but the tack shop and he and Sharon’s home also escaped damage. There is much to be thankful for.

As for Blue Haven Stables’ business, “We’re open for business,” Wayne said. “The tack shop is open and full of inventory.”
We have a good supply (thousands of pairs) of men’s and women’s boots, hats, jeans, shirts and blouses, jewelry, and tack and saddles, he said.

While Blue Haven doesn’t offer trail rides in the winter, they will be open for rides again in May just like always, he added.

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