Blaze Ignites at UW Medical Sciences Center Building

Activity is expected to return pretty much to normal Friday at UW-Madison's sprawlingUniversity of Wisconsin fire Medical Sciences Center, one day after a fire canceled classes and displaced scores of workers.

Investigators with the Madison Fire Department and UW-Madison police were still working to determine the cause of the fire, which originated in a lab on the fourth floor at the rear of the building, 1300 University Ave.

Three buildings in the Medical Sciences complex were evacuated, including the main building along University Avenue, and the Service Memorial Institute and Bardeen Medical Laboratories, directly north of the main building. The complex houses classrooms and several research departments including pathology, dermatology and physiology.

The Service Memorial Institute and Bardeen reopened Thursday afternoon for faculty and staff to retrieve personal items from offices and check on research labs.

Classes will return to normal Friday, with the exception of two 60-student classes — gross anatomy and undergraduate physiology — which have been relocated.

The scene was considerably more chaotic Thursday morning when many people arrived to work or class only to be denied access to the building. Many students and employees huddled in the vestibules of nearby buildings while others jammed the common areas and Aldo's Cafe in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building across University Avenue.

Firefighters were called shortly after 8 a.m. After some time locating the fire, they were able to extinguish it in about 15 minutes, and damage was confined to a small area on the fourth floor, Madison Fire Department Spokeswoman Lori Wirth said.  Fire sprinklers on the fourth floor activated, containing the fire. But smoke spread to multiple floors and firefighters remained on the scene for several hours to ensure that the fire hadn't spread and to ventilate the smoke from rooms, stairwells and hallways.

Part of the building on a floor above where the fire broke out contained a number of animals. Wirth said most of the animals seemed not to be affected, but one animal had been taken out of the building.

No damage estimate was available as of Thursday afternoon.