Downtown Fire Displaces 27 Residents; Blocks Downtown Traffic

Thursday, June 30, 2011 - 9:17am

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.

  • Lori Wirth, (608) 266-5947