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West Allis Duplex Fire Kills Two Teenagers, Injures Two Other Children

A fire in a duplex home in the City of West Allis during the early morning hours of Sunday, March 17, claimed the life of two 14-year-old boys. The fire grew so quickly that it caused the ceiling to collapse on them. Another two boys, ages four and thirteen, escaped but are recovering from burn injuries. The fatalities mark the 12th and 13th residential fire fatalities and the third multiple-fatality residential fire in Wisconsin this year.

Bob Kleinheinz, regional manager for the Wisconsin Chapter of the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA-WI), says the fatalities are a sad reminder as to why requirements for fire sprinklers in new construction one- and two-family homes are now present in national model fire and building codes from both of the major code-governing bodies, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the International Code Council. Unfortunately, he says, the State of Wisconsin has not yet adopted those national model codes into its legislation.

“Fires that occur when people are sleeping, such as this one, often go undetected for a few minutes before anyone awakes. At that point, the extreme levels of smoke and carbon monoxide are already overwhelming and cause disorientation, making escape difficult,” says Kleinheinz. “A fire sprinkler system could have prevented these two fatalities and property damage.”

According to NFPA statistics, having both smoke alarms and a fire sprinkler system present in a residential structure reduces the risk of death in a fire by 82%, relative to having neither. Kleinheinz says that smoke alarms alert occupants of a fire, while fire sprinklers allow them to safely escape. Each fire sprinkler is individually activated by heat, so only the fire sprinkler closest to the fire activates, controlling or even extinguishing a fire in its place of origin and keeping toxic smoke and fumes from spreading.

“We offer condolences to the family and friends of the victims in West Allis,” adds Kleinheinz.

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