Just before seven Sunday morning, Madison firefighters were dispatched to 216 State Street, after an employee of the 76–year–old Orpheum Theatre arrived to find flames. According to Madison Fire Department spokeswoman, Laurie Lovedale, "(Firefighters) didn't see anything showing from the outside, but when they went in they immediately saw heavy smoke…flames. So Engine One pulled in a line, and they quickly extinguished it—I think we had knock–down time at about 7:10."
The quick work contained the fire to the theatre's lobby, but couldn't keep early damage estimates from already eclipsing the 100–thousand dollar mark, a number which is expected to grow. Lovedale continues, "It just leaves a fine coat of soot over everything so it all has to be cleaned, you know, and cleaning can get expensive—especially when you're talking about such an old building and such a big building. It's a very big building, it's a lot of seats that need to be cleaned."
Lovedale says the employee tried to extinguish the blaze himself, but quickly realized the fire was simply too big. She warns, "People tend to overestimate the power of an extinguisher, and they underestimate the power of a fire and so, if any thing bigger than a wastepaper basket—we don't even want you to try and fight."
The Orpheum's owners declined an interview with NBC 15 News, but did say they plan to reopen.