The “Butter” Fire: 30 years later

Published: May. 1, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Around this time 30 years ago, authorities were fighting the historic “Butter” Fire on Madison’s east side.

A massive fire broke out at the Central Storage & Warehouse Company on Cottage Grove Road in May 1991. According to an anniversary NBC15 story from 2011, the sprawling 500,000 square foot site housed butter, cheese and meats, and flames were shooting high into the sky upon the arrival of first responders.

“A lot of times, you can tell how big a fire is just by what you see coming in the distance... and you could tell this was going pretty good,” Madison Fire Lt. Gordon Berggren said in 2011.

The fire caused 50 million pounds of food products to ooze into the surrounding area, fueling the fire. Pools of melted food mixed with water caused additional problems for officials as they were wading through “two to three feet of butter.”

At one point, about 3,000 residents within a half mile radius were evacuated as the fire threatened chemical tanks.

The blaze took eight days to put out due to water having little effect on the flames. No one was injured throughout the duration of the fire.

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