Officials investigate Madison office building fire

Office building returned to property owners after fire

Madison Fire Department firefighters have left the scene of Tuesday’s office building fire and fire investigators are working to determine a cause and origin of the three-alarm blaze.

Madison firefighters maintained an overnight fire watch at the scene on John Nolen Drive, dousing flames from hot spots until 4 a.m. Wednesday.

Fire officials are interviewing workers and combing through the debris very carefully. They said the structural integrity of the building is so bad that it could quite awhile to determine the cause.

Firefighters were dispatched just before 4 p.m. Tuesday after the Causeway Centre building manager reported smoke near her office at the rear of the office building at 900 John Nolen Drive, near the Sheraton Hotel.

The Causeway Centre is a two-story wood frame, triangular-shaped office building, constructed on a crawl space. Multiple businesses were housed in the structure, and now dozens of business owners are workers are displaced.

“As you go around, you can see parts of the building that are leaning in,” said Chuck Soule, a partner at Stafford and Neal, one of the businesses in the building.

On Wednesday, as the building’s tenants met with fire investigators they learned it’s not safe to go inside the building.

“At this point, we’re not allowing anyone in the building for any kind of salvage. The investigators say they’re probably going to wait a day or two to know if any salvage will be allowable,” said Lori Wirth, spokeswoman for the Madison Fire Department.

“I’m thinking about how we’re going to stay in business, what we can do if all the files are destroyed that we don’t have backup for, how our staff is going to get paid — there’s a zillion thoughts going through your mind,” Soule said.

VIDEO: Officials investigate Madison office building fire

Ted Linsley from PSJ Engineering reported the fire Tuesday, and he grabbed the computer server as he evacuated.

“I grabbed our computer server, which is pretty much our lifeblood, and took that and left. And I had no time to come in for anything else because by that time smoke was coming into our office,” Linsley said.

But other businesses might not be so lucky.

“We have all paper files with no backups. So if those files are gone, we’re facing a very difficult situation,” Soule said.

Fire officials will meet with tenants and workers again Thursday to update them on the possibility of getting inside to salvage items. However, some parts of the structure are so badly damaged that it’s very likely no one will be allowed into those parts of the building, officials said.

Wirth said no damage estimate is available. Neighboring buildings were not damaged.