Discarded smoking materials likely caused an apartment fire at 825-831 Grove Street in La Crosse, according to the La Crosse Fire Department.
Fire investigators said the fire started at the exterior of the building below the first floor window of apartment 831. Investigators said the most probable cause of the fire is discarded smoking materials, which they believe was a cigarette.
Sixteen people have been displaced.
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Sixteen people are displaced after their apartment complex caught fire Monday afternoon at 9th and Grove Streets, a few blocks away from Western Technical College in La Crosse.
When La Crosse firefighters arrived on scene, part of the exterior of the building was fully engulfed in flames.
Crews went through the building quickly to make sure everyone made it out safe.
"In the fire service we'll risk a lot to save a lot," said Division Chief Tom Wallerich. "There's potential here for a lot of life safety loss so we had crews inside immediately and we were able to determine that there was no one inside and then we were able to knock the fire down."
La Crosse firefighters told News 8 the call came in at about 2:50 p.m. and the caller said it appeared a bush and exterior part of the building was on fire. It appears the fire went up an exterior wall and pushed through the roof in two places.
"I came down right away and then saw the bush outside the building was on fire," said Scott MacFarlane who lives on the second floor and heard people yelling about a fire.
MacFarlane started looking for a fire extinguisher.
"It was really small at first and I thought if we could find one we could put it out in time."
MacFarlane and his three roomates are sure they lost everything.
"All the things you remember you had is just gone now," said Patrice Amoapin.
No one was injured. At this time, firefighters are not sure where the fire started or what caused it.
The people displaced by the fire are being helped by the American Red Cross.
"The volunteers are great and it really makes you appreciate what they do for everyone," said John Mladucky, a displaced resident who is being helped by the Red Cross.