Officials: Apartment building fire was intentionally set

East Side fire displaces about 50 residents
Officials: Apartment building fire was intentionally set

The Madison Fire Department said an apartment building fire on Madison’s East Side that placed more than 50 people’s lives at risk was intentionally set.

Fire crews were sent to the 24-unit apartment building at 4725 Cottage Grove Road at 3:38 a.m. When they arrived, crews saw heavy smoke throughout the building and fire alarms were sounding in the building.

Firefighters used a ladder to rescue three people from a second floor window, and many people were forced to crawl under the smoke to escape the building, according to a Madison Fire Department news release.

A total of four people reported injuries at the scene and three of these people required transport to local hospitals.

“My brother, he lived right across from me. He banged on my door real loud and I opened up the door and it was just smoke everywhere,” said Roseliend Johnson, who rents an apartment in the building. “And the fire alarms were real, real loud. That’s what happened. Everybody just vacated real fast up out of here.”

Firefighters pulled a hoseline into the front door and encountered heavy black smoke that filled the hallway from ceiling to floor.

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Firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to locate a fire on the first floor and quickly extinguished the flames, according to Eric Dahl, Madison Fire Department public information officer.

Dahl said firefighters used a thermal imaging camera to locate a fire on the first floor and quickly extinguished the flames.

The City of Madison Joint Fire/Arson Investigation Team has determined that the fire was intentionally set. Dahl said evidence at the scene indicates that the fire was started in a laundry area on the first floor of the apartment building.

“It is a crime. You’re destroying someone else’s property; you’re also endangering lives, which in this case is our biggest concern with the number of people in the building and the fact that there were several people injured trying to get out of the building,” Dahl said. 

Nick Carroll, a displaced tenant, said he saw smoke coming from the first floor laundry.

“The smoke was just billowing out like crazy,” Carroll said. “(The room) was full of smoke, and I could see a tiny fire in the corner and I just started spraying (the fire extinguisher), and then I thought, ‘I’d better get out of here.'”

Investigators are asking that anyone who has information on this fire please call Madison Area Crime Stoppers at 608-266-6014.

Fire officials said the fire caused damages in excess of $100,000. Most of the fire damage occurred in one room on the first floor and smoke damage was noted throughout both floors of the building.

The American Red Cross Badger Chapter is assisting about 50 residents with immediate needs including food, clothing and temporary housing. The Red Cross has opened a shelter at LaFollette High School to provide temporary lodging for the displaced residents.

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