Wisconsin Tavern Burns


An overnight fire destroyed a tavern in the Town of Burke.

VIDEO: Watch The Report|SLIDESHOW: Town Of Burke Tavern Fire Images

The Dane County Sheriff's Department said the fire began just after 2 a.m. Thursday at the Burke Station Tavern in the 5200 block of Felland Road.

Huge clouds of smoke spewed from the building for hours as firefighters from Sun Prairie and 15 other fire departments battled the blaze.

A bartender who was closing up the tavern said he discovered smoke coming from the basement. The bartender went to the apartments located above the tavern to evacuate two residents and a dog and then called for help.

No injuries were reported.

Sheriff's officials said that Felland Road was closed at Nelson Road Thursday morning as crews battled the fire.

Authorities said that no cause or damage estimates have been determined.

Dick Story might be better known as part-owner of the Crystal Corner Bar in Madison, but for 28 years he's also owned the Burke Station Tavern, and on Thursday he said he's just baffled about what could have caused the fire.

Story and his wife, Bonnie, said they believe business is a total loss. Insurance adjusters were at the scene Thursday.

The building originally went up in 1889 as the Burke General Store and evolved into the popular rural nightspot wedged in between Madison and Sun Prairie's city limits.

Story said there are no simple clues as to the fire's cause. He said that three weeks ago the building passed a comprehensive fire inspection with no "defects" found.

He said all the basement wiring had been upgraded and nothing flammable was kept there. As for foul play, Story said the basement doors were locked from the inside and basement access from the bar would have been very difficult.

"This is devastating. I have no comprehension of what it could have been. I mean, I don't know if a light bulb exploded or something and set something over and caught something on fire," Story said.

Whatever happened to ignite the blaze, Story said it happened quickly because his bartender didn't smell anything burning all night until he closed up, and workers go down to the basement frequently for ice.

As for cigarettes, Story said all the ashtrays are emptied into a steel container upstairs.

Dane County investigators will go in Friday to start to sift through the rubble and search for a cause.