Madison Fire Department investigators said a Gorham Street fire that displaced 11 residents was unintentional, but the source will remain “undetermined,” according to a Wednesday press release.
Nobody was injured in the Saturday night fire, but MFD had 47 firefighters battle the blaze for more than three hours. A call regarding smoke coming from a first-floor unit came in around 8:15 p.m. and Engine 1 was sent to investigate.
After no one responded to the door in the unit, firefighters broke in. The blaze then moved to the building’s second and third floor, setting off a second alarm around 9 and bringing more responders to the scene.
UW-Madison Sophomore Alex Matt lives on the third floor of the building and was home when the blaze reached his apartment.
“The alarms were going off downstairs but the ones in our room actually weren’t,” Matt said. “The people below us actually left the building before we did. The building was already in flames by the time we got out. We were only able to grab our coats and boots.”
Matt lost a substantial amount of personal belongings to the fire.
“I had a lot of books in my room and they all went up. I don’t have a ceiling anymore. I don’t have a roof over half of my room,” he said. “My roommate doesn’t really have a room anymore. We live on the top floor, so the fire just kind of ran up the back of the building and kind of torched our apartment.”
Madison Metro provided displaced occupants with a warming bus until they could find a place to stay.
Investigators cannot rule out unspecified electrical fault as a cause yet. MFD initially estimated the damage to be in excess of $250,000 Saturday. The Tuesday release put that figure at $600,000.
The American Red Cross has reached out to the victims to help with any unmet needs and the UW-Madison Dean of Students Office has been helping displaced students. Despite the circumstances, Matt said he is remaining optimistic.
“There are some positive sides,” he said. “We’ve been joking we don’t have to carry our big couch down the stairs anymore. We can just shovel it out the back.”