Janesville77.5°

Fire damages townhomes on north side

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Neil Johnson
July 9, 2012

— Authorities believe that cigarette butts smoldering in a can ignited a garage fire that damaged seven townhouses in a 16-unit apartment complex at 3202 Midvale Drive on Janesville's north side Sunday.

No residents were injured, Janesville Fire Captain Jody Stowers said, but he said seven apartments were seriously damaged in the blaze, and 12 residents are displaced. The Red Cross was contacted and will assist occupants with housing and basic needs, Stowers said.

One female firefighter was injured after part of a ceiling fell on her, the department reported. She was treated at a local hospital and released.

Officials had no damage estimates Sunday night.

The department believes smoldering cigarette butts in a can caught fire near a detached garage, igniting siding on the garage shortly before 2:30 p.m. Sunday.

Fire officials said the fire quickly spread to the roof overhang of one of the townhomes before flames got in the attic and spread to several adjacent units.

The townhomes and garages are covered with vinyl siding, which one firefighter at the scene called "pure fuel" for building fires. At one point, before fire crews knocked the fire down with water, flames and heavy smoke could be seen in units in the complex and shooting from the roof.

The heaviest damage was confined to one or two of the townhome units and their garages. The others sustained smoke and water damage, Stowers said.

Matt Parlich, a resident of one of the units most damaged in the fire, said it was his garage where the blaze apparently started, but he said he didn't know what caused it.

Parlich said he was dozing on a chair on the second floor of his unit when a neighbor pounded on his door to tell him his garage was on fire and the flames were spreading fast.

Parlich ran outside and saw flames jumping from the garage to the upper story of the townhomes. Parlich said he dashed back inside to try to get his daughter's cat, only to be driven back by thick smoke.

Parlich's next door neighbor, Mitch Smart, said he also had heard a neighbor pounding on doors and yelling about fire. He said he saw flames had spread to the back of Parlich's garage.

He then jumped out a window on the first floor of his townhome unit to avoid opening a door.

Firefighters were seen bringing out two chinchillas and a dog from the building. One firefighter said he believed that the animals would be fine.

The apartment's manager, Connie Nance, said that she happened to be driving by and saw the fire and smoke. Nance, who does not live at the town- homes, said she was still trying to learn which residents were around when the fire broke out.

Traffic was shut down Sunday during the fire on parts of Deerfield Drive and Midvale Drive, with police crews directing traffic.



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