Wis. Crews Battle Downtown Apartment Fire

MADISON, Wis. --

East Washington Avenue has been reopened to traffic up to the Capitol. However, two blocks of North Webster and East Mifflin remain closed, according to fire officials.

The Madison Streets Department has been called to sweep Mifflin Street and Webster Street of debris in advance of reopening both streets Thursday evening.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. No damage estimate has been given.

Fire Affects Nearby Businesses

The fire caused some headaches for those driving downtown and a tense situation for some nearby businesses.

The Old Fashioned on the Capitol Square, as well as a couple other restaurants, closed due to the smoke.

At the Bartell Theatre, which is on Webster Street two buildings down from the one that caught fire, Managing Director Sarah Hoover said she wasn't sure if the theater would be dealing with smoke damage until Thursday afternoon when she got inside and discovered things were fine.

"We can't afford smoke damage. We can't afford water damage. We're running really close to the line anyway, so I'm thrilled (the theatre wasn't damaged). And I'm obviously very sad for all the rest of the people on the block," Hoover said.

Hoover said when she arrived at the scene at about 5 a.m., she could see that the fire was centralized to the Capitol Apartments and the Underground Kitchen.

"But there was a lot of smoke, a lot of smoke," Hoover said. "I was worried about them. I was worried about the theater and that whole block. There are such wonderful buildings down that whole block, all local businesses."

Hoover said a show set for Thursday night at the Bartell Theatre would go on as planned.

Mercury Café, which is located next to the Capitol Hill Apartments, sustained significant water damage and heavy smoke damage from the fire.

"It's miserable. I'm kind of in a shock. I see what I see with my eyes, but it's hard to kind of believe it," said Vasilis Kallias, owner of the Mercury Café.

Kallias said it's going to take a couple of weeks to get the Mercury Café back open, and maybe longer. He said he does have insurance. He also owns Opa Cafe & Lounge on State Street.

The YWCA on Mifflin Street was evacuated after numerous 911 calls from occupants who complained of respiratory complications from the extensive smoke in the area. A Metro bus arrived at the scene to transport the YWCA occupants to the Salvation Army.

The YWCA was reopened Thursday afternoon shortly after the fire was extinguished and the smoke dissipated, fire officials said.

Some Metro buses were being rerouted earlier Thursday but normal Metro service returned to the Capitol Square by the evening. Metro said it will run regular service on the Capitol Square on Friday and it will follow the Capitol loop all day Saturday.

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