Slideshow: Organic Valley Fire from May, 2013 - WXOW News 19 La Crosse, WI – News, Weather and Sports |

Slideshow: La Farge Fire Chief: West end of Organic Valley HQ "a total loss"

Posted: Updated: May 14, 2013 010:50 PM
Photo from Heidi Rastall Photo from Heidi Rastall

LA FARGE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- At least half of Organic Valley's headquarters building in La Farge is a total loss, according to fire chief Philip Stittleburg. 

No one was hurt, but employees there will not be reporting for work tomorrow. 

Company officials said management and IT teams will be working through the night coordinating a response effort. 

Workers at the facility reported being evacuated shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday. 

"We were having a board of directors meeting upstairs and the fire alarms went off," said Jim Wedeberg, one of the Organic Valley Cooperative's founding farmers. "We saw smoke when we got outside, but we couldn't see where it was coming from or what the severity was." 
Seven fire departments in total responded to the scene, and were still battling flames at 8 p.m. 
Chief Stittleburg said areas of the building's east end, which includes a new addition, might still be salvageable. 
Wedeberg said the facility was built 10 years ago. Organic Valley's CEO said it employees 400 people. 
The fire will undoubtedly cause a "lull," in service, at least in the short term, Wedeberg said. 
But Wedeberg and other Organic Valley workers like Helen Jo Zitzmann, the company's e-commerce coordinator and an employee of 20 years, are remaining positive. 
"I have no doubt we'll bounce back," Zitzmann said. 
"I'm just thankful all the staff and everyone is out safely," Wedeberg said. "We'll deal with this and move on." 


LA FARGE, Wisconsin (WXOW) - UPDATE: La Farge's Fire Chief calls the west end of the Organic Valley's Headquarters building "a total loss" after a fire there Tuesday. 

Chief Philip Stittleburg said while the fire was mostly contained to the west end, there was some damage to the eastern part of the building.

Firefighters from at least eight departments took several hours to control the fire in the two story building. Crews remained on the scene well into Tuesday night.  

Photos taken at the scene shortly after firefighters were called around 4:00 p.m. showed smoke coming from the building.  A short time later, visible flames appeared along the roof and inside the building according to our crew at the scene. By 7:00 p.m., a large portion of the roof has sagged in.

Crews from La Farge, Richland Center, Viroqua, Hillsboro, Viola, Westby, Ontario, and Coon Valley are all contributed men and equipment for fighting the fire.

George Siemon, Organic Valley CEO, spoke to WXOW Tuesday evening. He said that 400 people work in the building, which was built in 2004. An addition to the building was built in 2011.  The building is office space-none of their production takes place at the site.

Siemon said that he's been told that the fire started in a wall in the older section of the building, but was not sure what caused it.

He said that they're planning to shift operations to Cashton for the time being.

WXOW and will continue to bring you additional information on this developing story as it becomes available both online and on our 10pm Report.

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