Move-In Date Set for Porchlight Fire Residents

By: Phil Levin Email
By: Phil Levin Email

UPDATED: Sunday, January 29, 2012 4:55 p.m.

On January 13, a fire destroyed part of a women's wing at Porchlight, Inc. housing in downtown Madison. Now staff say residents may be able to move back in as soon as March 1.

The building can house about 100 residents and has wait lists for both men and women. The fire destroyed 16 rooms displacing twelve women on a dry floor for those fighting substance abuse.

Since the fire, contractors quarantined the area to prevent heat from escaping and particles from the work area from spreading. They are also cleaning the smoke smell from other parts of the facility.

"There's an air duct that goes all the way up from the second floor all the way to the fourth floor and we need to get that air duct and the filter system cleaned out," said Executive Director Steve Schooler.

Kimberly is a resident whose room was next door to the kitchen where the fire started. Now she's living at St. Francis House down the street with others whose rooms needed serious repair. The church had empty rooms for students and is lending the space to Porchlight for free.

"I was sitting in my room and I smelled smoke, and I opened up the door and I saw the flames shooting up the wall on the couch," said Kimberly.

Although she'd only stayed at the center for about a week before the fire, she says returning to the rebuilt room will help her with her personal rebuilding.

"My daughter lives with my sister right now until I get my life more straightened out," Kimberly said. "I used to sleep with a little stuffed animal of hers and for some people a little stuffed animal is no big deal, go to Walmart and buy another one, but this one I slept with because she used to sleep with it and so I felt like I had a part of her with me. I want to live a clean and sober life and get my daughter back point blank, cause I'd much rather have her in my arms at night than a stuffed animal."


UPDATED: Saturday, January 14, 2012 --- 3:49p.m.

From the Madison Fire Department:

Earlier this afternoon the Madison Fire Department released the fire damaged building at 306 N. Brooks Street to its owner. A fire inspector witnessed the testing of the fire alarm system and verified that the building is safe for residents to move back in.

Residents will be allowed to move back into the building except for those living on the second floor of the west wing. Porchlight staff, volunteers and contractors have been working throughout the day to clean the building and make repairs. Some residents will return to the building today while others will remain at a motel or shelter until tomorrow. Arrangements have been made with other social service agencies to provide housing for the residents of the second floor of the west wing.

The four story building is operated by Porchlight Inc. and houses offices and 102 apartments. Fire, smoke and water heavily damaged the building on Friday night. More than 60 residents of the building were evacuated and spent the night in a shelter, motel or with friends or family.

Investigators believe the damage could exceed $750,000. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


UPDATED Saturday, January 14, 2012 -- 3:39 a.m.

From the Madison Fire Department:

Three people were injured and more than sixty were displaced from their homes following a fire on Friday night at 306 N. Brooks St. Fire, smoke and water caused extensive damage to a four story building containing offices and 102 apartments. The building is owned and operated by Porchlight Inc.

Firefighters received the call at 6:37 pm and arrived on scene within three minutes. Crews were directed to the second floor where they found heavy, thick smoke. One crew began searching for the fire while others searched all floors of the building for any people still inside. The fire was extinguished and declared under control within 20 minutes.

The displaced residents were initially provided shelter in Madison Metro buses and the lobby of Grainger Hall. The American Red Cross was called to the scene to assist the fire victims with immediate personal needs. The Red Cross also opened a shelter to provide temporary housing for the displaced residents.

No damage estimate was available and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

From the Red Cross:

The American Red Cross Badger & South Central Wisconsin Region has opened a shelter at West High School on Regent Street for the residents displaced by the fire at Porchlight, Inc. last night.

There were 40 registered residents at the shelter Friday night. If Madison fire personnel determine the Porchlight facility is safe, all but 16 residents will be allowed to return home by mid-afternoon on Saturday. The remaining 16 residents are from the area where the fire originated, and will not be allowed to return until the investigation and repairs have been completed.

The American Red Cross will keep the shelter open and will provide food and crisis counseling until alternate living arrangements can be made.

The Red Cross will continue to be involved with all of the affected individuals throughout the recovery process.

Thanks again to Madison Metro for providing heated buses for people and for providing transportation to the shelter.

The custodial staff at West High School are to be commended for their commitment to working well past their normal work hours to be sure the residents and the Red Cross had a warm, safe, and secure place to stay.


UPDATED Friday, January 13, 2012 -- 11:38 p.m.

The American Red Cross says it is opening a shelter at West High School on Regent Street, and will offer shelter and food for all 100 displaced residents until they can return home.


UPDATED Friday, January 13, 2012 --- 10:15 p.m.

NBC15's John Stofflet interviewed Steven Schooler, Executive Director-Porchlight, during NBC15 News at 10:00 p.m.

According to Steven, more than 100 residents will be housed off-site overnight - it appears at West High. They are hopeful that most residents (with the exception of 16 or so residents) can move back into the facility tomorrow. The main fire was contained into a shared kitchen area (on the 2nd floor).


UPDATED Friday, January 13, 2012 --- 8:50 p.m.

NBC15 is continuing to follow breaking news in Madison.

To view video from the scene, click on the video link ABOVE marked "VIDEO: Fire at Porchlight scene video 1/13/2012."

Firefighters remain at the scene of a fire at the Porchlight facility in the 300 block of N. Brooks St. in Madison.

Right now, administrators with Porchlight are trying to figure out just how many units have been impacted by the fire. There are 102 rooms in the facility. A spokesperson says they were near 100% capacity. Residents are now staying warm at Grainger Hall while they await more details about the fire. A Metro Bus is also on the scene; residents are inside the bus to stay warm.

Eric Dahl, a spokesman with the Madison Fire Department, says 3 people were injured; they are hospitalized at this hour. No word yet on how they were hurt/injured. Fire Department Inspectors are inside the building right now, determining the condition of the facility.


UPDATED Friday, January 13, 2012 --- 7:50 p.m.

NBC15 is continuing to follow breaking news in Madison.

Firefighters remain at the scene of a fire at the Porchlight facility in the 300 block of N. Brooks St. in Madison.

According to its website: Porchlight provides emergency shelter, food, employment services, counseling, and affordable transitional and permanent housing to homeless people in the Dane County area.

NBC15's Phil Levin is at the scene. Click on the PHOTOS tab to see photos from the scene. He says residents are now staying warm at Grainger Hall. A Metro Bus is also on the scene; residents are inside the bus to stay warm.

There are 102 rooms in the facility. A spokesperson says they were near 100% capacity. While only one person is allowed to stay in a room overnight, they can have guests in the evening. So more than 100-people may have been inside the building when the fire broke out.

Stay with NBC15 and for continuing coverage on this breaking news story.


Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 --- 6:53 p.m.

Dane County Dispatch confirms crews are on the scene of a fire in the 300 block of N. Brooks St. in Madison.

Avoid the area if possible.

NBC15's Phil Levin is on the scene. We'll have an update as soon as it's available.

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