Major Fires Empty Kenosha Fire Houses

Kenosha--Three major fires broke out within two hours of each other Saturday afternoon. 

No injuries occurred, but houses, condos, garages and vehicles were destroyed or heavily damaged with thousands if not millions of dollars of property lost.   

Other than a brisk wind to fan the flames, the fires appeared to have little in common.

The first alarm came in at 2:48 from a two-story brick building consisting of eight condos at 3306 55th Ct. That's on the city's northwest side, east of Green Bay Road. Flames and smoke could be seen shooting high into the sky from the parking lot of Walmart 

Condo owner Kristen Strahan had just stepped outside to begin a jog when she smelled smoke and saw flames coming from the unit next door. She called 911 and started circling the building to alert her neighbors.

The fire quickly spread through the attic which is void of the sprinklers that populate the rest of the building, according to Fire Chief Chuck Leipzig. 

The structure--just 13 years-old--is believed to be a total loss, Leipzig said. Structural damage was most visible on the building's back side. 

Strahan, a registered nurse, took the day's developments in stride. "Everything can be replaced," she said. "It sucks. I don't think it's sunk in yet but I'm okay. There are more important things in life."

She'll be staying temporarily at her parent's home in Illinois.

The cause remains under investigation, Leipzig said. 

The alarm from the second fire sounded 22 minutes later from a neighborhood near McKinley School.

A man who'd been using a backyard burning pit on 34th Ave. thought he had doused the fire with several buckets of water. He then went inside, according to Leipzig. When he returned outside, his garage was on fire. The blaze followed a fence line to his neighbor's garage.

Both buildings were destroyed.

In addition, the wind-whipped inferno damaged four houses and destroyed three cars, a motorcycle and a boat. One home was left uninhabitable while another was a question mark and a couple more were singed. 

Smoke from the McKinley neighborhood fire could be seen from Green Bay Road. A text-messaging system summoned all off-duty Kenosha firefighters to station houses and reserve equipment was pressed into service. In addition, fire departments from all surrounding communities were called in to either help out at fire scenes or staff empty fire houses.  

The third fire--this one at 2623 Roosevelt Road--occurred just after 4:30.

An extension cord being used by a small boy to charge a phone in a second-floor bedroom of a two-story, single-family home shorted out and ignited a bed, according to KFD Capt. Dave Marifern.  

The boy's mother thought she had extinguished the fire on her own and opened a window to ventilate the room. When she returned a short while later, the bedroom was fully engulfed with flames, Marifern said.

While the home had a smoke detector, it lacked a battery, he said. 


Reporting and photo from David Cole.