Wausau Daily Herald – October 10, 1916:
FIRE I AT THE UNIVERSITY
Entire Madison Fire Department Unable to Check Blaze Which Broke Out at 10: 15
HALL VALUED AT $202,000
Fifteen Hundred Students in Building No Loss of Life As They Escape Flames
LOSS NOT OVER $10,000.
Madison. October 10. Main hall at the university is in ruins. A smouldering fire was discovered under the dome at 10:13 a. m., and within an hour the massive dome had crumbled and fallen. The entire Madison fire department was on the ground.
Main hall is valued at $202,000. At 11:30 Fire Chief Heyl said the hall was practically ruined. The building is insured in the state fire Insurance fund for $184,000. The contents are valued at $36,000.
Fifteen hundred students were in the building when the fire was discovered. They got out in orderly fashion. There were no mishaps, but there were many miraculous escapes.
As soon as the fire was discovered. one hundred students scaled the roof of the hall to fight the blaze. Fire lines were quickly thrown out and five thousand people were at the lire within twenty minutes. The original structure was built under an appropriation of $45,000 made by the legislature in 1857. Since then two wings have been added.
President Van Hise of the university said; “The fire apparently started in the literary society room or in the dome.’ The alarm was immediately turned in and the equipment here in the building was manned by the force of janitors augmented by students. We are particularly proud of the way the thousands of students in the building conducted themselves. There was no disorder of any kind and nothing resembling a panic. We had planned against such a calamity and had a routine fire drill that worked perfectly. I did not know how long It took them to get out. Last year when we tried it they got out in two minutes. As far as damage is concerned, of course, I am unable to say at the present time. 1 hope it will not be large. We are doing everything we can do.”
The fire was believed to have been caused by an errant cigarette.