UPDATE: Downtown Madison Fire

UPDATED Thursday, February 2, 2012 --- 3:50 p.m.

From the Madison Fire Department: Final Report on Webster St. Fire Released

City of Madison Fire investigators have released the final report on last summer’s fire at 24 N. Webster St.

That fire on June 30, destroyed the Capitol Hills Apartments, displacing 27 residents, and shut down a restaurant in the basement.

Following a thorough investigation, which included a fire scene examination, numerous witness interviews and a study of the building’s construction, fire investigators have concluded that the fire originated in a wait station area of the Underground Kitchen.

Investigators were unable to rule out self-heating of restaurant towels. The fire has been classified as “undetermined.”

The fire turned into a 2nd alarm assignment, with multiple fire companies responding. That same day, the Madison Fire/Police Fire Investigation Task Force requested assistance from the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). Agents from the Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and agents from ATF responded to the scene.

Investigators conducted a fire scene examination to identify the area of fire origin and to examine potential ignition sources in the area. No common ignitable liquids were detected in any of the items submitted for analysis.


UPDATED Friday, September 16, 2011 --- 65:45 a.m.

Press Release: Webster St. Fire Benefit Silent Auction

A silent auction will be held this Sunday, September 18th from 6-10pm at Graze on the Capitol Square to benefit those who were affected by the fire at the Capitol Hill Apartments on June 30th.

The silent auction will feature local businesses, artists, vintage apparel, professional services and a wide variety of items.

To learn more about the event or to help those affected please visit our facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=199905620073941.

You can make a donation to the Friends of Capitol Hill Apartment Residents Fund by dropping of your donation at any UW Credit Union branch or by mailing your donation to:

Friends of Capitol Hill Apartment Residents Fund
924 Williamson St.
Madison, WI 53703


UPDATED Wednesday, July 13, 2011 --- 2:56 p.m.

Update from the Madison Fire Department:

Fire investigators have pinpointed an area of origin for the fire that destroyed the Capitol Hills apartment building at 24 N. Webster on June 30.

Investigators believe the fire began in the restaurant housed in the basement of the building. The fire is not believed to have been intentional.

The area of origin is a small “wait station” at the back of the restaurant. The room is something of a staging area for wait staff to finish orders.

In the wait station is a ventilation shaft that runs through the center of the building. Investigators believe the fire entered the shaft and burned straight up into the roof.

Twenty-seven residents were displaced by the fire.

The fire quickly went to two alarms as crews worked to protect adjacent buildings. Neighboring buildings sustained smoke damage, and were later were determined to have structural damage as well.

Much of the fire attack focused on the roof, where fire burned just under a rubber covering. Firefighters trained streams of water from two ladder towers to keep the flames under control. Operations were moved to exterior or defensive firefighting positions as the building’s roof and ceiling sagged and threatened to fall in.


UPDATED Friday, July 1, 2011 --- 6:00 p.m.

"That smell that we're smelling right now, the burning wood and rubber is something I'm not going to forget. "

Thursday, John Sinclair stood with his neighbors as they watched their North Webster Street home burn. Friday, Sinclair was again with his neighbors. This time they were getting an update from fire fighters.

Sinclair was hoping he'd be allowed into the building Friday morning to gather his things. But, that didn't happen.

" If we are able to recover anything I think we're just going to try to appreciate that and not get too caught up on the loss. "

Sinclair made it out with just a few personal belongings. He considers himself lucky because some only made it out with the clothes on their back.

Residents of the Capitol Hill Apartments who weren't able to find shelter with friends or family were able to find shelter at a local hotel. Free rooms at the Concourse Hotel downtown are being offered to victims.

Only four people took them up on their offer Thursday night. But more expected to join them. The hotel along with other area businesses will also collect clothing for the victims.

Lori Wirth with the Madison Fire Department says investigators couldn't get into the building until Friday. That's because flare ups continued until about midnight. She still wouldn't say if the building is a total loss. But, she did say it will need a lot of work.

" If anybody does anything with this building it's going to have to be gutted and it's going to have to be rebuilt. "


UPDATED Thursday, June 30, 2011 --- 4:46 p.m.

Click HERE To Submit Your Pictures And Videos Of The Fire

Information from the Madison Fire Department:

The final count of displaced occupants (residential) is 27 individuals.

The YWCA was reopened earlier this afternoon shortly after the fire was extinguished and the smoke dissipated.

City Streets has been called to sweep Mifflin and Webster of debris in advance of reopening both streets this evening.


UPDATED Thursday, June 30, 2011 --- 2:22 p.m.

Press Release from the Madison Fire Department:

Downtown Fire Displaces up to 30 Occupants; Blocks Downtown Traffic

A stubborn apartment fire just blocks from the Capitol has displaced occupants at the Capitol Hill Apartments and damaged a popular restaurant.

City of Madison firefighters were called to 24 N. Webster St. this morning at 5:00. Residents evacuated the building on their own and call 911.

Flames were through the roof and black smoke kept visibility near the building almost non-existent. Crews performed primary and secondary searches on arrival and found no one left in the building.

The fire quickly went to two alarms as crews worked to protect adjacent buildings. Neighboring buildings sustained smoke damage, but were protected from fire and structural damage.

Much of the fire attack focused on the roof, where fire burned just under a rubber covering. Firefighters trained streams of water from two ladder towers to keep the flames under control. Operations were moved to exterior or defensive firefighting positions as the building’s roof and ceiling sagged and threatened to fall in.

The YWCA was evacuated after numerous 911 calls from occupants who complained of respiratory complications from the extensive smoke in the area. Metro Bus arrived at the scene to transport the YWCA occupants to the Salvation Army.

The fire was finally extinguished at about 1:00 this afternoon. Crews remain on the scene for mop-up and to water down any remaining hot spots. A crew is expected to be assigned to an overnight firewatch in the event of a re-kindle. Water misters have been brought in to keep crews cooler as they work.

The American Red Cross – Badger Chapter was on site to assist displaced residents. The Salvation Army opened a canteen to provide responding personnel with lunch and drinks to stay hydrated.

East Washington has been reopened to traffic up to the Capitol. However, two blocks of North Webster and East Mifflin remain closed.

Investigators are on the scene interviewing witnesses. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No damage estimate has been given.


Press release from the Red Cross:

Six volunteers from the Badger and South Central Wisconsin Region of the American Red Cross responded to assist residents affected by today’s early morning blaze at in Madison. The apartment complex of 30 units continues to smolder. Twenty-four units were reported as completely destroyed.

At this time the Red Cross is assisting with emergency food and housing for 2 residents. Other residents will be staying with family and friends according to the Disaster Action Team Leader on the scene.

You can help people affected by disasters like floods, fires, tornadoes and hurricanes, as well as countless crises at home and around the world, by making a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. Your gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to your local American Red Cross chapter or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.


UPDATED Thursday, June 30, 2011 --- 10:56 a.m.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- About 50 firefighters battled a blaze at an apartment building in downtown Madison Thursday.

The fire at the Capitol Hill Apartments still burned more than five hours after it began at 5 a.m. Plumes of black smoke and flames could be seen from a distance.

Fire Capt. Brad Olson says firefighters were called out of the building 9 a.m. to take a defensive approach to fighting the fire, which burned in the attic of the three-story building. Fire department spokeswoman Lori Wirth says the roof is "virtually gone and the ceiling is waterlogged and sagging."

Wirth says the fire is out on the bottom floor of the building which houses the Underground Kitchen restaurant. Wirth tells the State Journal about 30 to 35 apartment residents have been displaced by the fire.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


UPDATED Thursday, June 30, 2011 --- 10:48 a.m.

The Madison Fire Department tells us the fire is still burning in parts of the roof and an attic space.

They have been in a defensive position for a while now, hitting the fire with streams of water from the outside. There had been some indications that the roof may not be stable. At some point, if it is possible and safe, they may send in more firefighters to investigate.

The downtown area is hazy right now with smoke. Avoid the area if you can, especially the area surrounding Mifflin and Webster. If you live in the area, close your windows. The YWCA has been evacuated, and medical crews are at the scene to check on anyone who may have complications due to the smoke.

This fire may impact traffic into this afternoon's rush hour. The Fire Department says they'll be on scene for several hours.


UPDATED Thursday, June 30, 2011 --- 8:00 a.m.

Update from NBC15's Tim Elliott: According to Lori Wirth [with the Madison Fire Department], firefighters are working to kill hot spots burning in the basement. She believes it will be out in the next 30 to 45 minutes.


Posted Thursday, June 30, 2011 --- 6:45 a.m.

Happening right now in Downtown Madison: Firefighters are battling an apartment fire along Webster Street at Mifflin Street.

Drivers are asked to avoid this area at this time.

NBC15's Tim Elliott is at the scene.

He says multiple fire trucks remain on scene as firefighters continue to put out the flames. Thick smoke stretches across several blocks. Neighbors are asked to shut their windows.

Dispatch received first word of the fire at Capitol Hills Apartments at approximately 5:00 a.m..

The American Red Cross is at the scene to assist residents.

***From Madison Metro: The 100 block of East Washington Avenue is closed due to a fire.***

Westbound buses turn L- Hancock, R-Wilson,R-King to Pinckney.

Eastbound buses from Pinckney turn R-Hamilton,R-E Johnson, R-Blair, L- East wash.

Submitted by Kim