Fire on Old University Ave. displaces students

Nov. 10, 2013

by Susannah Brooks

MADISON – The Dean of Students’ Office is leading efforts to assist approximately 50 University of Wisconsin-Madison students affected by an overnight structural fire near campus.

Damage estimates are still being calculated at the Casa Blanca Apartments, 2302 University Ave., where many residents are UW-Madison students (primarily undergraduates). Though several residents exhibited signs of smoke inhalation, none of the three individuals who were transported to UW Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries were affiliated with the university.

The fire was knocked down at 12:05 a.m.; the cause of the fire remains under investigation by the Madison Fire Department.

Students kept warm in a Madison Metro bus and a nearby convenience store until they were allowed to return to their apartments or find alternate shelter. All UW-Madison students were able to find temporary housing on their own; the Red Cross assisted two non-students with temporary housing needs. Residents of two of the building’s three wings were able to return to their homes; however, residents of the remaining wing, where the fire is believed to have started, will require alternate housing for the foreseeable future.

Lori Berquam, dean of students and vice provost for student life, was on hand during the early morning hours to assist students.

“Given the intensity of this situation, we are so grateful that no one was injured more seriously,” says Berquam. “I am deeply thankful for the city agencies and friends who have assisted these residents and kept them safe.”

Berquam emphasizes that students who may not have made contact with her on the scene are encouraged to contact her office for assistance.

“We know that several students had already left to stay with friends, or may not have been at home during this incident,” she says. “Regardless of when or how they have been affected, I hope these students will take advantage of our resources and continued support.”

Staff from Berquam’s office are able to grant crisis loans and make contact with professors, as well as securing temporary housing, if needed. The American Red Cross is assisting all residents, including non-students, with immediate temporary housing and personal needs.

Several resources are available to students who have been impacted by the fire:

  • Impacted students: If you live in this apartment building and need assistance with crisis loans, housing, books or any other help, call the Dean of Students’ Office (DoSO) at (608) 263-5700 and ask for the Dean On Call.
  • Counseling: If you are interested in receiving counseling services related to this or any other situation, call Counseling and Consultation Services at (608) 265-5600.
  • For parents: Parents of affected students can call DoSO at (608) 263-5700 and ask for the Dean On Call. For general information, visit the Parent Program Web site.
  • Contributions:  Assist the American Red Cross Badger Chapter by contributing to its Disaster Relief Fund. Click on “Donate Funds” or call (877) 618-6628 for more information. District 5 Alder Shiva Bidar-Sielaff is also collecting donations from her district residents.

The Madison Fire Department encourages everyone to remember these fire prevention tips:

  • Ensure smoke alarms are on every level of the home, in each bedroom, and outside each bedroom. Contact your landlord if smoke alarms aren't present or operating.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month.
  • Make an escape plan.
  • When the alarm sounds, get out and stay out.
  • After you have escaped, call 9-1-1 from a safe place.
  • Never go back inside the building for any reason.
  • As a renter, don't forget to purchase insurance.