Fire breaks out at house where six Blugolds live

One person is dead after the fire occurred at 627 Congress Street

More stories from Ta'Leah Van Sistine

Life in the city
December 8, 2021

Photo by Submitted Photo

Pictured is 627 Congress Street where a fire broke out on Oct. 19 with six UW-Eau Claire students inside.

When Alexis Warren, a fourth-year public relations student, evacuated her house at 4:10 a.m. due to a fire, she said she left with her phone — nothing else. 

The fire took place at 627 Congress Street on the morning of Oct. 19 where Warren said she and five other Blugolds live. The Eau Claire Police Department and Eau Claire Fire Department responded to the fire at 4:12 a.m., according to a media release from the Eau Claire Police Department. 

One individual died in the fire, according to the media release, and has been identified as 21-year-old Jaime Thayer-Vega. However, the report also stated that Thayer-Vega “was not known to any of the tenants.”

Thayer-Vega was an intruder in the house, Lt. Derek Thomas of the Eau Claire Police Department said in an interview with WEAU, and when Thayer-Vega entered the house, a confrontation ensued between him and one of the tenants. That same tenant had noticed the fire, according to the media release, and then informed the other tenants, so they could all evacuate. 

The media release also reported that Thayer-Vega was transported to the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison, where a conducted autopsy confirmed that he died of smoke inhalation. 

The Eau Claire Police Department was not available for further comment. 

Warren said the house is a top and bottom unit, so she and two other female students live upstairs and three male students live downstairs. 

After evacuating the house at 4:10 a.m., Warren said she and the other tenants were not allowed to get back into the house until around 11:30 a.m. when Warren said she and the other tenants were able to grab objects like their medication and glasses. 

The next time the tenants were able to go into their house again was not until Monday around 5 p.m. where Warren said she was able to recover even more of her personal items, such as her computer, clothes, shoes, textbooks and wall decorations. 

“I was able to save a lot — more than we anticipated,” Warren said. “When we first went in … it was devastating to see just because I’d never seen anything like that before but … for the most part, we saved a lot, or at least the girls upstairs did. I don’t know what the boys’ situation is.”

Since Oct. 19, Warren said she has been staying at friends’ houses, and is able to stay at her aunt’s house in Menomonie as well. Though Warren said her two other roommates are from Eau Claire and thus have family to stay with in the area, she said the male students in the downstairs level of the house are not in the same situation. 

“I don’t think the boys really have anybody … that they could stay with more permanently,” Warren said, and explained the American Red Cross has been helping those individuals with housing.  

Warren said she and the other tenants have also been supporting each other by being “there for each other if anybody needs anything” and that she and her roommates have even been in contact with the male students who live below them to help with anything they need.

Ranging from UW-Eau Claire professors, community organizations and other individuals, Warren said, overall, people have been helpful and understanding.

“I didn’t realize so many people cared,” Warren said. “You’d think you’re just completely alone in these situations. I woke up one day with 37 text messages … I can’t believe so many people have been like ‘If you need anything, let me know.’”

The investigation of this fire is still ongoing. 

Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].