The day after a massive fire burned down his barn in Port Washington, landowner John Belzer surveyed the damage to his property.
The barn laid in a smoldering pile visible to anyone driving along Northwoods Road just off Interstate 43. He mourned the loss of several of his livestock, but he took the loss in stride and kept the most important things in perspective.
"I'm just glad my family is safe," said Belzer.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 29, Belzer and his family woke up to the fire, which Belzer said engulfed the structure in minutes. His daughter was the first to notice the smoke, as she had woken up to feed the animals in the barn. Fire departments from several communities rushed to the scene to battle the flames, but the barn could not be saved. Belzer lost three goats, four pigs and a chicken in the fire.
Belzer pointed across the street from the barn to his neighbors, who he said did not even know there had been a fire until they woke up several hours later.
"Thankfully, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction, or there might have been damage to their house or mine," said Belzer.
As far as the cleanup process goes, Belzer said that his insurance providers will cover removing the wreckage of the barn.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Ozaukee County Sheriff's Office. Belzer said that diesel fuel that was stored in the barn caused the massive flames, but he has no idea what could have caused the fire to break out in the first place.
"I would hate to think that a person could have been responsible for this, whether it was intentional or not," said Belzer. "At the end of the day, it might just end up being a freak accident with no explanation."