A fire broke out in a University of Wisconsin building on University Avenue Thursday morning.
Heavy amounts of smoke were detected on multiple floors of the Medical Sciences Center, located at 1300 University Avenue, around 8 a.m., according to Ald. Scott Resnick, District 8. The fire was located in a lab on the fourth floor near the rear of the building and was extinguished in 15 to 20 minutes, he said.
According to Lori Wirth, spokesperson for the Madison Fire Department, no injury of people or animals was reported as of 11 a.m.
In addition to the Medical Sciences Center, three other buildings in the surrounding area were evacuated as a precautionary measure, according to Resnick.
The safety of the animals in adjacent labs was also a concern of responders to the fire, Resnick said.
“We have evacuated at least one animal, but I did not hear any information regarding injuries of the animals,” Wirth said. “It’s hard to say at this point.”
According to Wirth, the fire department is still eliminating smoke from the building.
The fire department is focusing on ventilation, Resnick explained, adding that they want to make sure ventilation in the building is “solid” because of the animals the labs.
Resnick added the age of the building is a particular concern for the fire department.
“The Medical Sciences Center used to be a hospital and is a fairly old building,” Resnick said. “[The fire department] took extra precautions to make sure there was no structural or additional damage.”
Response to the fire also caused congestion on University Avenue, Resnick said. At one point during the morning traffic on the road stretched back a mile, he said.
While traffic on University Avenue has returned to normal, Wirth said Linden Drive is still blocked.
According to Resnick, this was the second significant fire on campus this school year. The first was in Memorial Union, he said.
Resnick said the fire is contained but the university has not yet decided when students and faculty will be able to reenter the building.
“It’s possible they may reopen in the afternoon, but I do not have a firm timeline,” Wirth said.
The fire department, state investigators and the UW Police Department are conducting a coordinated investigation into the cause of the fire, according to Wirth. At this time the cause is unknown, she said.
While the fire department usually assesses the costs of damage to a building after a fire, in this case UWPD will evaluate the damages, according to Wirth. This is because the building contains specialized equipment and ongoing research projects the fire department cannot put a price on, she explained.
According to Sgt. Aaron Chapin, UWPD is working with researchers and the university to determine if any research was affected.
Some staff is already being allowed into the building to gather belongs and monitor research projects, Wirth said.
“There is no total cost of the estimated damages at this point,” Chapin said. “It will take some time for the damages to be evaluated.”
UWPD does not know at this time when the building will be open to students, but the department will notify students if their classes are cancelled, Chapin said.
Higher Education Editor, Muge Niu, contributed to this story.