It was a sadly familiar scene early this morning at the intersection of University Avenue and Randall Street in the heart of the UW campus. At 2:11 a.m., the Madison Fire Department received a call about a blaze in the Palace Latin Club, a music and dance venue located on the upper floor at 1401 University Ave. The fire was extinguished 20 minutes later, but not before it damaged both the structure and property within the club, along with damage to adjoining buildings.
"It has been ruled an arson," says MFD spokesperson Lori Wirth. She gives a basic outline of what happened: "It went pretty quickly. We got a call from a person in an adjacent building. He reportedly heard a small explosion, saw smoke and called 911. As soon as our investigator got on the scene, he notified the Madison Police Department right away."
"It was his assessment early on that it was an arson," Wirth says. "He's remaining at the scene. We don't have anything really to release at this point because it is under investigation."
The fire was contained so quickly, says Wirth, thanks in part to the club's sprinkler system. "The fire was contained to an area of origin by a sprinkler system," she says. "This was really helpful because our crews had to force entry into the building. At this point, the department is estimating $150,000 damage as a result of the fire.
"What it boils down to is damage to the building and its contents," Wirth says. "For instance, there's a 24-hour coffee shop below, and that sustained some water damage. It's an early estimate, but it will encompass structure and contents of the club and adjacent businesses."
There were no injuries, and the residents of four residential apartments in nearby buildings were able to get out.
Palace Latin Club co-owner Martin Palacios is surveying the damage this morning, and the Madison police and fire departments' arson task force is continuing its investigation.
Editor's note: The "24-hour coffee shop" referred to above is Bob's Copy Shop, a printing, finishing, and graphic design retail service.