Saturday, August 9, 2014 - 11:26am
Madison firefighters remain at the scene of last night's fire on Madison's east side. Two crews maintained fire watch overnight to battle hot spots. The fire in the 105-unit apartment building under construction appears to be out this morning, though pallets of building materials across the 1-2 acre fire ground continued to smolder. Engine Company #13 has taken over the fire watch for today, relieving the overnight crews.
The fire in the 500 block of Apollo Way was reported shortly after 7:30 p.m. from drivers on Interstate 90 who saw the flames and smoke. The blaze could be viewed from miles away, with falling debris causing spot fires across the interstate.
Medic 5 and Engine Company 5 were first on scene. En route, the crew saw smoke and flames coming off the back side of the building on third and fourth floors from a half a mile away and called for a second alarm. The engine crew connected to a hydrant and pulled a hose line, but the company officer reports that by the time they got the hydrant charged, the fire conditions had worsened to the degree that plastic on the engine was melting and window glass was breaking from the heat. Crew members quickly detached from the hydrant and moved the engine.
Because the building was under construction, with no occupants, and the 3rd and 4th floors fully involved with fire, crews adopted a defensive strategy to protect the occupied dwellings. Houses across the street had melted siding and cracked windows from the heat, but firefighters kept a steady stream of water on them to keep them cooled and prevent structural damage. Temperatures reached more than 250 degrees where the firefighters were needed to protect the exposures and lines were set up to spray them and keep them cool enough to maintain their exposure protection lines.
Callers to the 911 Communications Center continued to report intense heat, heavy smoke, falling debris and grass fires along the interstate and at various points across the east side for up to an hour after the initial dispatch. Crews had the fire under control at 9:37 p.m. but continued to battle hot spots.
Eleven MFD units responded to the fire, including the new Fire Station #13, which came on line just weeks ago.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation. Fire investigators are working with Madison police and investigators from the State Fire Marshal's Office and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, a common practice at large fire scenes. Damages have not yet been calculated.
Fire investigators request that anyone with photos or videos of the fire prior to the fire department's arrival call (608) 266-4420 and leave a name, phone number, and email address so they can be contacted by department officials. The MFD expects to set up a website later today where photos and videos may be uploaded.