The fire broke out in a massive government office building just off the state Capitol square in May. Madison Fire Department investigators initially said the blaze caused about $350,000 in damage. But the state Department of Administration said in a news release Thursday afternoon that based on discussions with the state's insurance company the damage is actually around $15 million.
DOA spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis said the new estimate is based on removing smoke and soot damage throughout the building, removing the smoke smell from thousands of files, cleaning the building's entire heating and air conditioning system, the cost of relocating the 1,000 or so employees who work in the building and purchasing replacement furniture and electronics.
The state's policy with Lexington Insurance Company requires the state to pay the first $3 million in damage, Marquis said.
She said she didn't know why the fire department's estimate was so much lower. Madison Fire Department Division Chief Mike Dibble, who supervises the department's fire investigations, said he didn't know why the estimate was only $350,000 but said typically the department's estimates are limited to the costs of getting the building physically ready to use again.
The building houses workers with the state Workforce Development and Children and Families departments. The fire broke out on the fourth floor overnight on May 15. Marquis said it appears an electrical failure sparked the fire, although Dibble said the official cause hasn't been released yet.
The building lacks a sprinkler system. Marquis said it was built in the early 1970s and building codes the state followed then didn't require sprinklers. But she stressed the building passed its last fire inspection in December with no violations.
Madison Fire Marshal Ed Ruckriegal didn't immediately return a telephone message.