3-Alarm Fire Closes State Administration Building for the Day

May 16, 2014

A smoky, early morning fire has closed down the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development at 201 East Washington Avenue. Madison firefighters were dispatched to the State Labor Building, commonly known as GEF-1 shortly before 2 a.m. after a 911 caller reported the building alarms sounding.

On location, Engine Company 1 found no indication of smoke or fire. Crews were met at the scene by Capitol Police officer who escorted them into the building and led them to the 4th floor. When firefighters exited out of the stairwell onto the 4th floor there was a haze of smoke that thickened as they turned a corner into the hallway. Engine 1 then contacted 911 to dispatch a full response.  This initially brought 3 Engine, 2 Ladders, Medic and Chief.

Crew members began hooking up the standpipe/sprinkler hook up on the East Washington side of the building. During the investigation and the continued efforts to locate the fire, the fire was taken to a Second Alarm, bringing 2 more Engines, 2 Ladders, Medic Unit, and the entire Command Staff. Multiple crews assisted in finding the source of the smoke in the massive building which takes up an entire city block. A second alarm was called at approximately 2:30 a.m.
Conditions in the building were no heat but moderate to heavy smoke in the hallway on the 4th floor. Some smoke staining was taking place on the walls. After a lengthy search, firefighters followed the smoke to a large open “cubicle” rich work area of the building where it was heaviest. Firefighters observed melting ceiling tiles in an area near fuse panels.

Previously deployed pre-connected lines were put into action for extinguishment. The fire initially appeared to be concentrated in a single cubicle, but following knockdown, a thermal imaging camera (TIC), more fire was seen in an adjacent cubicle. Ventilation of this large open space also proved to be time consuming. After the fire was extinguished, a fourth floor window that had cracked from the heat was broken to allow for ventilation of the area.

The fire was also taken to a Third alarm, bringing in resources from Fitchburg, McFarland, Monona and Waunakee.

Streets leading to and surrounding the building were closed for a time, but most were re-opened prior to rush hour.

There were no injuries and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. Early damage estimates for the building and its contents are calculated at $350,000.

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