Investigators: child playing with lighter started multiplex fire in La Crosse

Six people left homeless after fire

The La Crosse Fire Dept. confirmed Wednesday night that the fire at a multiplex on the corner of Wall and Rose Streets in La Crosse was started by a child playing with a  lighter.

No one was injured, but six people are homeless after the fire Wednesday morning.

One of the tenants of the building told News 8, she was in the bathroom and when she came out,  the child was standing by the fire and admitted to setting it. The tenant said she tried to put the fire out, but was unable to contain the fire.

When we asked her if she called the fire department, she said she couldn’t because her phone was in another room.

News 8 also spoke with a friend of a different tenant who lives in one of the apartments. She said her friend just moved into the house a week ago. Her 16-year-old son was in the home at the time of the fire.

“Her son called her at work and said he could taste smoke and smell smoke,” said Shelly Valentine, a friend of one of the tenants. “He thought it was the neighbor’s house. He does home schooling. She told him to get out and she came out here and it’s a total loss. He doesn’t even have shoes on his feet.”

There were several neighbors out watching the fire department work this fire. They say this home was fully engulfed in flames at around 8 a.m.

“First I heard the sirens and I just happen to glance out the window and I saw the smoke, and the smoke was billowing 20-30 feet high over the roof of the house I couldn’t believe it!.” said Jerry Thompson. He lives about a block away from where the fire started.


The fire department said the fire was a bit of a challenge to put out, as there was a separate fire that started on La Crosse’s south side at Trane Company about an hour prior.

The Division Chief said their response time is typically less than four minutes, but with crews at two separate fires, their resources were spread thin.

Crews from the Town of Shelby and Stoddard were covering stations 1 & 3 in La Crosse during the fires.

Rose Street was re-opened at about 11:30 a.m. Wall Street will remain closed for the rest of the day.

Slideshow: House fire on La Crosse’s Northside

Volunteers from the American Red Cross Scenic Bluffs chapter were on scene to help people impacted by the house fire.

Demolition crews started tearing down the multiplex late Wednesday afternoon. Crews say the rubble will be brought to the La Crosse County landfill by Monday at the latest.