Arson Caused Madison Theater Fire

A weekend fire at the Madison Theater was deliberately set.

Peoria Fire Chief Chuck Lauss confirms investigators are officially listing the cause of Saturday night’s blaze as arson.

Peoria firefighters were called to the scene around 11 p.m. Saturday after a passerby spotted smoke coming from the windows.

Fire officials at the scene say multiple fires were located in the stage area, specifically the curtains, some debris around the stage and some chairs.

Heat conditions were still noticed on the second and third floors but crews did not encounter any fire. “I think it was just trapped smoke from the stage area into the projector area,” Battalion Chief Tom Carr said at the scene.

The Madison Theater was built the 1920s. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The building has been closed to the public since 2003.

“It’s an historic property for us,” Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis said. “We hope anyone who redevelops the property will make (the theater) part of the overall development.”

Before a fire erupted in the Madison Theater in Peoria Saturday, President of the Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation, Bill Ordaz, said the theater “had a lot of potential.”

Bill Ordaz, president of the Central Illinois Landmarks Foundation, says the estimated $500,000 in damages is only about five percent of the total value of the structure. Ordaz says the theater is worth between $8 million and $10 million.

Ordaz and the CILF have been working with the Comfort family trust, which owns the Madison Theater and adjacent buildings, to find a developer for a number of years.

Comfort Family spokesman J.D. Comfort told 1470 & 100.3 WMBD he would not give an official statement about the fire and the future of the theater before meeting with the fire department and his insurance agency.

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