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Arson suspected in fire that destroys Madison frat house

An arsonist might have started the fire that destroyed the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Evacuees told Lori Berquam, dean of students, the blaze started outside at the back of the 110-year-old structure.

The fire department has sent evidence to the State Crime Lab to test for items which might have ignited the flames.

The dean said several students saw smoke out back, opened the door and tried using a fire extinguisher. But flames were just too intense.

At the same time, a police officer was knocking on the door.

An officer on patrol spotted the fire and called 911 late Monday night. All 25 fraternity members got out safely.

Damage was estimated at $0.75 million.

Insurance agents and national fraternity officials will inspect the building today (Wednesday), to see if anything can be salvaged and to find living arrangements for the dozen members who were planning to stay this summer.

Last week, the university said it was investigating a so-called "reverse hazing" incident, in which vomit and excrement were dropped on frat members.

Berquam says there's no reason to believe the fire had anything to do with that.