UPDATE: Fire officials explain why Madison apt. fire spread so quickly

By: Madeline Anderson Email
By: Madeline Anderson Email
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UPDATED: Thursday, May 15, 2014 --- 5:55 p.m.

Investigators are still working to determine what caused Wednesday night's apartment fire on Madison's east side.

In total, 15 people were displaced and at least five units are uninhabitable.

Ten or so years ago, firefighters would typically have around 20 minutes before an entire room catches on fire. Today, they have just three minutes because of the way newer places are built and furnished, making fighting fires and getting people to safety that much more difficult.

Roommates Jordan Spear and Bailey Marks spent all day Thursday going through what's left of their belongings. Their apartment was one of the eight affected by the fire.

"I was in my room watching TV and I smelled burning plastic," Spear said. "I was really confused and I looked out my window and there was black smoke."

Witnesses reported seeing that smoke and flames from over a mile away.

"It's structurally sound, right up until the point it catches on fire," said assistant chief Lance Langer. "And that's where we're having problems."

Langer says newer buildings like the one on Loomis Cir. pose a greater threat to firefighters and residents.

"The way they build them, it's not that it's a problem, but it builds a whole bunch of confined spaces, and void spaces where heat and smoke get into, so it causes us to do a lot more overhaul," he said.

Langer adds, contemporary furniture catches on fire faster: "All the plastics that are in everything, from the carpeting to the couches, the bedding, our clothes."

Spear and Marks lost most of those valuables.

"We've got a lot of water and smoke damage in the apartment itself," Marks said. "So pretty much all of our big furniture is ruined."

Without renter's insurance, it'll cost them a lot to replace. Fortunately, the things that can't be replaced are still here.

"Thank God we're both OK and our cats are OK but our stuff isn't. So it's going to take time to rebuild," Marks said.

Spear and Marks say the damage is too extensive to be able to move back into their apartment.

Fire officials say the best way to ensure safety in the case of a fire, check smoke detectors and sprinkler systems regularly, and have an exit plan.

UPDATED: Thursday, May 15, 2014 --- 6:55 a.m.

City of Madison firefighters returned to 9 Loomis Circle shortly after midnight when a fire traveled into the attic of an adjacent building.

Six additional residents are now displaced due to the second fire.

Crews were dispatched to the address yesterday evening at 7:23 for a fully involved structure fire. Smoke could be seen from a mile away. As they arrived, firefighters observed flames at the roof line and immediately put up a water tower to keep fire from spreading to adjacent units.

At the rear of the building, they found heavy smoke and flames from the ground floor units and through the roof, indicating a fast-moving fire. The advanced nature of the fire caused crews to fight it from the exterior, with knockdown taking place at 7:55 p.m.

All residents were safely evacuated.

Damages are still being calculated.

Posted Wednesday, May 14, 2014 --- 11:11 p.m.

Madison Fire Department Assistant Chief Lance Langer says crews responded to the call of an 8 unit apartment complex on Loomis Circle on Madison's east side.

The fire burned through the roof of one building. Crews were able to put the blaze out, but Assistant Chief Langer tells us one fire fighter was hurt and taken to be treated for their injuries.

Officials say around nine people are displaced tonight because of the fire. Red Cross is assisting with finding them a temporary place to stay.

No one was reported injured other than the firefighter. The extend of damage is unknown and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

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