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8 fire departments respond to structure fire at Kettle Moraine Hardwoods in Town of Hartford | By Ron Naab

January 10, 2021 – Town of Hartford, WI – Eight fire departments from Washington County responded early Sunday morning, January 10, 2021, to a structure fire at Kettle Moraine Hardwoods, 5261 Aurora Road in the Town of Hartford.
Kettle Moraine Hardwoods, fire
Photo courtesy Kettle Moraine Hardwoods

The call came in at 3:10 a.m. The fire occurred in a production building where logs are cut into slabs.

Equipments lost in the fire included several skid steers, forklift and other equipment. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

According to the Washington County Sheriff, “there were reports of heavy smoke and flames coming from the area of Addison Road and Aurora Road in the Town of Hartford. The first arriving Deputy determined it was coming from a fully engulfed garage type outbuilding at a business in the 5200 block of Aurora Road. The St. Lawrence Fire Department was paged and the call was upgraded to a MABAS call.  Fire Departments from Allenton, Hartford, Slinger, Kohlsville, Richfield, Jackson and West Bend responded to assist along with Lifestar Ambulance.

Property loss management

Upon arrival there was smoke and flames coming from the building, which was attached to a larger building.  There were no injuries to the homeowner or any personnel on scene as a result of the fire.  There is no damage estimate available.  The Sheriff’s Office has a Fire Investigator responding to the scene so there is no further information to report at this time.

On a history note – From Kettle Moraine Hardwoods

In September of 1986 Wally and Bob Wesp purchased a sawmill/dry kiln property on US Hwy 41 between Slinger and Allenton Wisconsin.  The buildings had been built in 1955 and the previous business had always served the wholesale market with native hardwoods from this area.  It had been idle for 5 years.

The plan was to resume the previous type of operation, but a steady stream of visitors going by on the highway would stop and ask to buy a couple of boards of hardwood lumber.  This convinced them that a retail market existed for the product, and they built a store to accommodate the demand.

In 1989 Bob’s brother Jim joined the operation after selling a different business he had started and run for 13 years.  After all, Wally had retired once after working for over 30 years with AT&T, but now he was working 50 hours a week just to keep up with the new company.  Wally continued to work on a variety of things including lots of construction projects, maintenance, computer programs and the original design of this website until he passed away in February of 2009.

We came up with the name “Kettle Moraine Hardwoods” which was perfectly logical to us and everyone else in southeastern Wisconsin because we are in the middle of those glacial land formations.  We did not reckon with the fact that almost no one else in the country had ever heard of them.  After spelling the name out a few million times we are not going to change now.  If you are interested in kames, eskers, kettles, moraines and that sort of thing, click on www.kmoraine.com/interest.htm but be sure to come back here when you are through.

Bob and Jim are joined by a dozen or so dedicated and knowledgeable employees who are a pleasure to deal with.  One of them started working for us while still in high school and has been with the company for over 30 years.  Some others have over 20 years with us & all of our employees are important to the success we have realized.  Jim is in charge of the office, sales, advertising, trade shows, insurance, etc. and Bob covers the sawmill, dry kiln and machinery end.  Some of these tasks are being distributed to other employees as Jim prepares for retirement.

In 1996, the small store building we had in Hartford was getting crowded with customers & we decided to open another store south of Milwaukee to serve the south side of Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha and northern Illinois. That store was also located in view of a highway (Interstate 94) and was very well received.  As the company continued to grow, multiple additions were put on the Hartford facility to handle new product lines & a growing customer base.  In 2019 we decided to return to a single location business and closed the south side location.  The Hartford location was now large enough to handle lots of customer traffic & there was always some inefficiency in operating two locations.  Finding good, reliable employees was always an adventure at both locations & we were happy to have our long time south side store manager join the staff in Hartford.

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Our purpose is to present a large and varied inventory which will meet the needs of our customers.  If you don’t see what you want – ask us.  Our relatively small crew which is knowledgeable and interested will often find real prizes which in a larger operation would be lost.  When you visit our store be prepared to spend some time because we prefer that you pick your own wood from the bins with planing, ripping and sanding done while you wait.  You will never be rushed in wood selection (unless we are 5 minutes or so from closing time).  Small volumes are OK – one board or one thousand.  Clear short boards (less than 4 feet at No. 1 common price) are also available and often fit an individual’s need.  Customer satisfaction is our main goal.

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