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East side apartment fire ruled arson, officials say

By Jennifer Hoff, jhoff@wisctv.com
Published On: Aug 06 2014 06:40:40 AM CDT
Updated On: Jun 13 2014 12:49:04 PM CDT

Madison’s Fire Department officials have ruled a fire that destroyed an east side apartment complex as arson.

MADISON, Wis. -

Madison's Fire Department officials have ruled a fire that destroyed an east side apartment complex as arson.

Investigators said the suspect was a tenant, but they also called two other residents heroes for saving the 15 people who lived at Muirfield Ridge off Loomis Circle.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m. on May 14 inside a unit on the bottom level. It reignited four hours later and destroyed eight apartments.

Cody Labagnara and his family lost nearly everything, but Madison Fire Department Division Chief Mike Dibble said Labagnara's neighbor saved his life.

"We finally got out, and it was smoking and we saw smoke coming from the lights and the ceiling was cracking," Labagnara said.

"They actually saved people's lives by first getting themselves out safely and then alerting all the other residents," Dibble said. "They really did a fantastic job of alerting the people."

The hero happened to be a firefighter's fiance who lived at the complex with him. She noticed the smoke pouring from the windows below her.

"When she went down to check it out, she knew it was way more than grilling," said Dibble, who knew the fire grew too quickly.

"That's just wrong," Labagnara said. “You just destroyed nine families in a matter of hours."

The firefighter's fiance gave investigators a description of the suspect, and police officers detained the tenant that night while the firemen fought the flames.

District Attorney Ishmael Ozanne is reviewing the case and whether to file charges.

Ozanne said he hasn't made a decision yet, but it could come as early as Friday.

The Muirfield Ridge apartments are being rebuilt, but a spokesperson didn't know when tenants would be able to rent them again.

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