Six Die in Unlicensed Rental House Blaze in Juneau County, WI

July 3, 2024
The cause of the fire in Germantown that claimed three adults and three children remains under investigation.
The rural Wisonsin vacation house where six family members perished over the weekend lacked the licenses to be a rental.
Rev. Steve Witte, his adult daughters Lydia Witte and Charis Kuehl, and his granddaughters Stella Kuehl, Lena Henselin and Merci Henselin were killed in the inferno while other family members managed to escape. 
"We require smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors dependent on fuel burning appliances and sleeping rooms. And then there's obviously building code and fire code as well," Ben Jeffrey, environmental health supervisor at the Wood County Health Department, told Channel 3000. 
The township of Germantown does not regulate rental housing, but both Juneau County and the state of Wisconsin do.  Jeffrey says smaller municipalities are working towards more regulation.
A work session on short-term rentals was listed as an agenda item for an upcoming Germantown planning committee.
The fine for operating a rental site without a license is double the license fee, which depends on the size of the house. 
Firefighters found the house fully engulfed in fire.
Neighbors said they heard the children playing in the yard in the pool in the days leading up to the blaze that remains under investigation. 
About the Author

Susan Nicol | News Editor

Susan Nicol is the news editor for She is a life member and active with the Brunswick Volunteer Ambulance & Rescue Company, Oxford Fire Company and Brunswick Vol. Fire Co. Susie has been an EMT in Maryland since 1976. Susie is vice-president of the Frederick County Fire/Rescue Museum. She is on the executive committee of Frederick County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association. She also is part of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) Region II EMS Council. Susie is a board member of the American Trauma Society, Maryland Division. Prior to joining the Firehouse team, she was a staff writer for The Frederick News-Post, covering fire, law enforcement, court and legislative issues.