Nine fatal fires in Wis. this year, high call volume for La Crosse FD

La Crosse Fire Dept. responded to at least five fires in two weeks

Since the first of the year, there have been nine fatal fires in Wisconsin, two of them in La Crosse. In the past two weeks, the La Crosse Fire Department has responded to at least five structure fires.

The department said none of the fires have had a similar cause, but both it and the Red Cross said what’s alarming is the fact that there have been so many deaths because of those fires — something both believe an alarm could have possibly prevented.

If anyone is displaced from their home due to fire, the Red Cross is called in. The organization has already responded to three fires this year in La Crosse County alone. It responded to just nine in the county all of last year.

“I’ve been with the Red Cross over eight years and this is the most fire-related deaths that I’ve ever seen in this period of time,” said Tom Mooney, chief operating officer for Red Cross Wisconsin.

The Red Cross helps people displaced due to fire in many different ways, offering shelter, food, clothing, even medical needs and financial help. Then it’s time to focus on the emotional needs.

“We may bring in our mental health professionals that will sit down and talk to them about the different stages of the loss,” Mooney said.

La Crosse Fire Department Lt. Steven Cash said the winter can sometimes bring a higher call volume due to cooking around the holidays and heating your home. He said death and fire-related injuries can be avoided if homeowners are prepared by making sure they have working smoke detectors.

“(We) recommend when you’re cleaning your house, once a week, it’s a good idea to just reach up, hit the test button on it and make sure it’s functioning,” Cash said.

He also stressed the need to have, and practice an escape plan with everyone in the home and to have a designated meeting place once outside.

“Every home should have two exits out of every room in the house,” Cash said.

The La Crosse Fire Department said a working smoke detector is a family’s main line of defense to get out of their home safely, especially if it happens when the residents are sleeping. The department also recommends having the bedroom door shut when sleeping because it is a barrier that Cash said studies have proven significantly increases a person’s ability to survive.