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Hot towels, cooking oil cause Stalzy’s Deli fire

MADISON (WKOW) — Firefighters say a fire which did extensive damage to Stalzy’s Deli was caused by hot towels soaked in cooking oil catching fire under a sink.

“On Sunday afternoon, deli staff took approximately 50 towels used for cooking and cleaning purposes to a Laundromat,” the Madison Fire Department said in an incident report.

The towels, even after washing, still had cooking oil on them when they were dried for an hour at a high temperature, firefighters said.

The towels were placed in a mesh basket under a prep table in the kitchen, according to the report.

“The towels never fully cooled down, and hours later they spontaneously ignited,” the report said. “The fire spread to nearby products in the kitchen until it was put to a stop by firefighters at 8:40 p.m.”

Firefighters said damage estimates were still being worked on.

Meanwhile, people who live and work nearby say they’re sad to see one of their favorite lunch places now boarded up.

“The food is delicious,” said Jeff Fitzgerald, who owns nearby Revolution Cycles. “They make the best Reuben in town.”

Fitzgerald said that the deli was a favorite spot for him as well as his customers.

“For customers maybe stopping in to get a flat tire fixed, we would often suggest them for a sandwich or a quick bite to eat for lunch,” he said.

Fitzgerald said that since the fire, he’s been thinking about his own business.

“The first thing I thought is making sure my insurance is up to date and is good enough, and that the policy is good enough to protect me against fire,” he said.

Sam Docter lives above Revolution Cycles. He works at a nearby glass company and helped board up Stalzy’s Sunday night.

“Saw some firetrucks go by, so we went down there, and they said they needed it boarded up,” he said. “So we boarded it up.”

Docter said when he got there, the building was still on fire. After it was out, he got to work, helping for about two hours.

“There was about five or six broken windows and the door, and a lot of smoke on the inside,” he said.

Like everyone in the neighborhood, Docter said he loved to have lunch at Stalzy’s.

“All the time, actually,” he said. “So yeah, they’ll definitely be missed.”

No one at the deli was able to talk on camera Monday as they were still dealing with the cleanup. There’s also no word yet on when Stalzy’s will reopen.


MADISON (WKOW) — Madison firefighters responded to a fire at a deli on the city’s east side Sunday night.

Dane County Communications tells 27 News police and fire were called to Stalzy’s Deli on Atwood Avenue around 8:30 p.m.

The fire was reported after smoke was seen coming from the doors. The business was closed at the time.

The Madison Fire Department said no one was hurt, but the building has extensive damage and won’t reopen anytime soon.

Stay with 27 News for the latest on this developing story.

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