Firefighters from several departments battled a fire Monday night at the Oneida Village Inn in downtown Three Lakes. These firefighters battled flames coming through the roof of the motel along W. School Street. —Staff Photo By KURT KRUEGER
Firefighters from several departments battled a fire Monday night at the Oneida Village Inn in downtown Three Lakes. These firefighters battled flames coming through the roof of the motel along W. School Street. —Staff Photo By KURT KRUEGER
The Oneida Village Inn in downtown Three Lakes burned late Monday night as fire crews battled flames that inevitably riddled the landmark hotel and restaurant into the morning hours Tuesday.
According to reports from those on scene the fire began in the hotel portion of the building located at 1785 Superior St. about 10:30 p.m.
The Three Lakes Fire Department and neighboring departments faced below zero temperatures which hampered efforts, but they were able to contain the blaze, though it is said the building is a complete loss.
Crews were back on scene as of 8 a.m. Tuesday morning as the flames rekindled, but were contained quickly.
Traffic around the scene on Highway 45/32 was rerouted early Tuesday morning, directing school busses and morning commuters around the scene as crews continue to sift through rubble and knock down flare-ups.
Reports from those on-scene Monday night said that a guest staying at the hotel had called the front desk and reported smoke in the building. He or she stated they were trapped. Witnesses saw guests needing to climb from windows of the inn to safety, many of them helped by Oneida Village staff members.
The bartender on duty said she alerted firefighters after detecting smoke, and soon after she received the call from a motel guest about heavy smoke and poor visibility.
Smoke quickly turned to heavy flames from the roof and windows and prompted employees into rescue mode as they made sure guests and others working at the time got out of the building just minutes before the fire spread into the main part of the building between the restaurant and inn.
Staff member Mike Kuehl said it appeared the fire started in a motel room just south of the main hall that leads to the game room and bar. He said it spread quickly through the attic, reaching his room on the very east end in a few minutes.
Oneida Village staff member Jackie Scheppele said she raced to the scene from her home because she knew exactly how many guests were in the rooms and where they were located.
“The Oneida Village is my life and its burning,” Scheppele said in tears later in the evening.
Three Lakes Fire Department deployed their ladder truck from the south side of the building, directing a water line across the roof of the neighboring post office to help knock down the largest portion of the fire.
Fire Chief Dave Kirby said early Tuesday morning that all reports are no one was injured in the blaze, and that the building seems to be a complete loss.
This is the second major fire in downtown Three Lakes in less than a month as the Three Lakes Diner, located less than a block away from the Oneida Village Inn, burned Feb. 13. That building too was a complete loss, though owners have said they have plans to rebuild.
Oneida Village Inn is owned and operated by area businesswoman Jackie Walker, who together with her staff across 40 years has hosted numerous community events inside the restaurant. 
The facility was filled with history that included newspaper clippings, old photos and wall murals done by the famed Skip Wagner, who with his band members performed music and comedy routines downstairs for decades.
Prior to the fire Monday night the Three Lakes Lions Club held their monthly meeting inside the restaurant, and many of the members had left just prior to the fire breaking out according to Lions Club member and Three Lakes Chamber of Commerce Director Collette Sorgel.
News of the fire quickly spread across social media outlets prompting memories of the historic building and restaurant to flood in.
An official press release regarding the blaze was not available Tuesday morning, though fire crews from Three Lakes, Sugar Camp and Eagle River were all on scene to help put out the fire.
The Oneida County Health Department issued a boil water advisory Tuesday morning citing a backflow issue that occured because of the fire response. Anyone on village utility is asked to boil any water before consuming until further notice.