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Fire above tavern claims the lives of 4
Times photos: Brenda Steurer Traffic on Wisconsin 78 was being routed around Main Street in downtown Blanchardville after an early-morning fire Monday at the Silver Dollar Saloon. Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley said he would try to get the state highway department to close at least one lane for safety reasons. Fire loosened bricks in the 100-year-old building, which could have fallen onto the sidewalks below.
BLANCHARDVILLE - Four people died in Blanchardville early Monday morning in the worst fatal fire in Lafayette County in at least 20 years, according to Lafayette County Sheriff Scott Pedley.

"It tears up a small community like this," he said. "The people are very close, and know one another. This will have a significant impact for a long time."

Daniel Hardekopf, 45; Jelayne L. Hughes, 44; Cody D. Olson, 23; and Brian K. Monte, 34, died as a result of an early Monday morning fire that destroyed the Silver Dollar Saloon, which was located in a century-old, three-story hotel building at 301 South Main Street.

The cause of the fire is still being determined by the state fire marshall, Pedley said.

Hardekopf and Hughes were owners of the building and resided in a large apartment on the second floor. Olson and Monte might have been guests visiting at the apartment at the time, he said.

Authorities had not yet released were Monte and Olson were from.

According to Pedley, one person was found at the bottom of the staircase, and three others on the second floor.

"The theory at this time is that he was trying to rescue the others" on the second floor, Pedley said, but he would not identify who was attempting the rescue.

Blanchardville Police Officer Walt Fischer was in charge at the scene initially, and called in the fire, according to Village President Dennis Marty.

The intensity of the fire was causing windows on the second floor to pop out, he said.

Marty reported that one subject had run out of the building and back in.

The building was fully engulfed with flames, which were visible on the second floor when firefighters arrived, according to Blanchardville Fire Chief Steve Zimmerman.

The Blanchardville Fire Department was dispatched at 3:23 a.m. Zimmerman said his department, located one block from the saloon, was on scene in about three minutes. Twenty-five Blanchardville firefighters responded.

Zimmerman engaged the MABAS system, calling in Argyle, New Glarus, Hollandale and Monroe fire departments. Argyle, Hollandale and Green County EMS crews also responded.

Hardekopf and Hughes purchased the building Sept. 3, 2008. Marty said they ran the business and leased the building for about six months prior to buying it.

Pecatonica schools were delayed two hours Monday morning, because streets were blocked off and some firefighters are school bus drivers.

The building is located along Wisconsin 78 at the corner of Elm Street.

The Lafayette County Sheriff's Department is asking all people to stay away from the area. The fire loosened bricks in the building, which are now in danger of falling out onto the street below. Pedley is asking the state to close at least one lane of Wis. 78 to prevent any accidents.

The number of fatalities in this fire is the largest since he became sheriff 20 years ago, Pedley said.