Bystander notices fire and quick action by MPD officers/WPS limits fire damage to exterior of building


On Friday, March 1, 2024, at about 3:30 p.m. the Lincoln County 911 Dispatch Center received a report of fire and smoke coming from garbage cans next to the residence at 617 E. First St. in Merrill. A bystander called it in, indicating the exterior siding of a building there had started on fire. While Merrill Fire Department (MFD) was dispatched to the scene, with Truck 63, Medic 61, and Engine 61 en route, Merrill Police Department (MPD) also responded and officers, along with a Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) employee in the area, used fire extinguishers on the fire. They were able to “knock down the fire prior to Merrill Fire units arriving onscene,” said Battalion Chief Jon Leiskau of the Merrill Fire Department.
Leiskau said fire crews then used “a 1 3/4” hoseline to cool down the exterior wall that had been on fire along with the smoldering garbage can” and also completed a “thorough search of the area involved with a thermal imaging camera” which indicated the fire had not spread and damage was limited to that exterior area of the building.
While fire crews were at the scene, the home’s occupant – who was out of the home when crews arrived but had apparently only been gone a short while – returned to the home to learn a bystander had seen the smoke and fire, called it in, and MPD, WPS, and MFD had responded. The bystander’s quick call and quick action by MPD officers and the WPS employee no doubt saved the structure from more extensive damage.
“After speaking with the occupant … it was determined that the cause of the fire was from a discarded cigarette that ignited some cardboard that was outside of the recycling container,” Leiskau said.
“Once it was determined that the fire was completely out and there was no further threat of a fire hazard, the occupant was allowed to resume normal activity inside the home,” he said.
No injuries from the incident were reported.

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