‘I’d never seen any fire like that before’: Witnesses react to fire at MG&E substation

The explosion and fire at Madison Gas and Electric’s main power center could be seen and heard throughout the city.

“It was a surreal experience,” said Tomissa Freisleben, who noticed the fire from her seventh-floor apartment in downtown.

Madison firefighters were called to the MG&E substation off East Washington Avenue around 7:40 a.m.

Freisleben and her husband say they were awakened by a bright light and loud noise.

An eyewitness to the fire at MG&E said they saw the explosion from the 8th floor of a building they were working in. This video looks down on the massive plumes of smoke as this was first happening. #News3Now #downtownMadison #fire #MGE pic.twitter.com/O3cp8jlPcb

— Jamie Perez (@JamiePerezTV) July 19, 2019

“You didn’t know exactly what it was, Freisleben said. “It kind of sounded like a car backfiring but it definitely sounded more impressive for the lack of a better term.”

In order to knock down the fire, MG&E had to de-energize the main power plant. Doing so knocked out power to more than 13,000 people.

With Friday being the hottest day of the year so far, many without power, decided to leave the area.

Freisleben’s home was one of those without power. She and her husband took this video of the fire before leaving their apartment.

‘I’d never seen any fire like that before’: Witnesses react to fire at MG&E substation

“It was hard to think about our belongings, and we just realized the most important thing was each other,” Freisleben said.

Others like Laurell Randall were already at work when the fire happened.

Randall recalls running to the window on the 8th floor of a building she was working in after hearing a loud noise.

“It was a boom! Like something fell or hit the building and the building shook,” Randall said.

Madison firefighters also responded to a second substation fire Friday morning. The second fire broke out at the substation near Ogg Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus.

No one was hurt in either fire.

Governor Tony Evers has declared a state of emergency for Madison and Dane County in response to the fires. Many businesses, state agencies and city and county office buildings had to close as a result of the fire.

Madison Gas and Electric crews are working to restore power to those without electricity. As of 4 p.m. Friday, there were still over 3,000 customers without power.

The Red Cross is also setting up an overnight shelter at the Alliant Energy Center.

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