MFD Firefighters Battle 3-Alarm Blaze

Tuesday, April 24, 2012 - 5:03pm

City of Madison firefighters will maintain an overnight fire watch at the scene of a 3-alarm fire at 900 John Nolen Drive.

Firefighters were dispatched just before 4:00 p.m. Tuesday after the building manager reported smoke near her office at the rear of the 2-story office building. Firefighters arrived to find smoke already spreading through the first floor. Occupants evacuated safely. Firefighters conducted a thorough search of the building to ensure no one was left inside.

The fire quickly went to two alarms as firefighters fought through heavy smoke to determine the fire's location. Crews traced it to a crawl space underneath the first floor, accessible only by a 2' x 2' hatch. By that time, fire and smoke had spread, collapsing the floor and blocking that side of the building as a point of entry.

Mutual aid assistance was requested for the 2nd and 3rd alarms, as Command Staff repositioned MFD units to maintain coverage of the rest of the City. At one point, an estimated 75 first responders were at the scene, including units from Fitchburg, Monona, McFarland, and the Town of Madison.

Approximately 90 minutes into the call Fire Chief Steve Davis reported a significant structural collapse at the rear of the building. That signaled a shift to defensive firefighting strategy as Command Staff ordered all personnel from the building due to its structural instability.

Water flow was a concern early on. Madison Water Utility was contacted to raise the water pressure, allowing firefighters to maintain multiple hose lines and water towers. John Nolen Drive was closed for approximately 3 hours while a hose was stretched across the four lanes of traffic to an additional hydrant. The road was reopened at 8:30 p.m.

The Salvation Army provided food and water to weary crews. All but two units were dismissed from the scene at 9:00 p.m. with the fire contained and under control.

Ladder 6 remained on the scene with a water tower still trained on a stubborn hot spot. Ladder 6 and a reserve engine will remain at the scene overnight, alert for any rekindle of the fire.

Investigators were on the fire ground, but unable to enter the building to begin their investigation. They will return to the scene tomorrow to be work on determining a possible cause of the fire.

No damage estimate is available, but the building has significant structural damage. There was no damage to neighboring buildings.


  • Lori Wirth266-5947