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Accidental theater fire causes $1M of damage in UWM Peck School of the Arts

Milwaukee police and fire departments responded to and controlled a fire in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus Theatre and Art building complex on the night of April 8.

Impacting three buildings on campus, officials believe the fire was an accident and started in a backstage area where theater productions were built.

As the investigation continues into the cause, the Music, Theatre, and Art Buildings remain closed, and classes were canceled until April 11.

Campus Police Chief Joseph LeMire said that the damage, including fire, water, and smoke, are estimated at $1 million.

The exact total will not be known until the scene is explored and evaluated. The Peck School of the Arts serves about 1,700 UWM students.

To address the concerns and aftermath of the fire, UWM Chancellor Mark A. Mone released a public statement on April 9 to faculty, staff, and students.

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Statement from Chancellor Mark A. Mone

Many Peck School of the Arts classes will be cancelled Monday and Tuesday after a fire in the school’s Theater building on Saturday night. No one was in the building at the time, and we are very thankful that there were no injuries.

You may already have read news reports about the fire, which was discovered about 10 p.m. We believe that it started in the set/scenery shop, and although the cause is still under investigation, we believe the fire was accidental and not suspicious. I am extremely grateful to the Milwaukee Fire Department and the UWM and Milwaukee police departments for their swift response and outstanding service. I also want to thank Peck School of the Arts Dean Scott Emmons for his tireless leadership during and after the fire. Randy Trumbull-Holper, PSOA Director of Facilities, and Geoff Hurtado, Associate Vice Chancellor, Facilities Planning and Management, are also to be commended.

The set/scenery shop was destroyed by the fire, and the Theater and adjacent Arts and Music buildings all suffered smoke and water damage. Classes in all three buildings will be cancelled Monday and Tuesday, and ensemble rehearsals on Monday are cancelled. Dean Emmons and his staff are working to find alternate meeting places for classes and rehearsals and will share information with affected faculty members, students and staff as it is available.

The Theater, Art and Music buildings also will be closed to faculty members and staff on Monday and Tuesday. We encourage them to work from home.

Classes and rehearsals in the Zelazo Center, Kenilworth building and Mitchell Hall will be held as scheduled on Monday and Tuesday.

As you know, this is a very busy time of the school year for Peck School students, faculty members and staff. We are very grateful to the community arts groups that have already reached out to the Peck School to offer space for performances scheduled through the end of the school year. We’re also grateful to the alumni, community members and others who have offered to help with cleanup. Those wishing to help or offer aid can contact Peck School of the Arts Marketing Director Rebecca Ottman.

While the fire is an unfortunate event, I cannot stress enough how grateful I am that no one was injured and how proud I am of the fast and professional response by our faculty members and staff.

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© Photo

Lee Matz and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

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