Cause of Apollo Way fire could take months to determine

Arson, other causes still on table in Aug. 8 fire
Cause of Apollo Way fire could take months to determine

Finding the cause of large apartment complex fire on the east side may take as many as four months, city of Madison authorities said.

The Apollo Way fire on Aug. 8 left little behind of what used to be 105 partly-constructed apartments, but it’s left plenty of work for investigators.

Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis said determining a cause could take a while because of the sheer size of the fire.

“In my 25 years on the Madison Fire Department, it’s the most amount of fire I’ve ever seen out of one building,” Davis said. “With the leads we have right now, we think maybe three to four months, possibly. It could be a lengthy investigation.”

The massive scope of the fire prompted the national Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to take part in the investigation, though the agency announced Monday it would hand all work back over to local authorities, including MFD, the Madison Police Department and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Officials said the ATF typically gets involved in fires that impact interstate commerce and cause more than $1 million in damage.

“The ATF national response team comes in just to get the case to a manageable position,” said Dan Heenan, a supervisory special agent for the ATF. “After consulting with the Madison Fire Department, Madison Police Department and the Wisconsin state fire marshal, we believe we’re at that [point] now.”

Investigators have conducted more than 100 interviews over the past week. Although they have not yet determined a cause, officials said they have identified a “very defined area of origin” for the fire. The location of that area has not been released.

Investigators also announced they have ruled out a couple of potential causes to the fire, including an electrical or natural gas fire and spontaneous combustion. They added the fire was likely not caused by weather, either. Arson, along with a range of other causes, is still on the table.