RACINE — Errant fireworks started a Sunday night duplex fire that began on a balcony, the Racine Fire Department has determined.
The blaze at 1810 Ninth St., reported at 9:33 p.m. Sunday, caused an estimated $120,000 in damage; neither of the residents of the upper or lower apartments was home at the time.
The Fire Department reported Wednesday it had determined that errant fireworks ignited household goods on an open-air second-floor balcony to start the fire.
“This headline likely would be far different if occupants were home at the time of the fire,” the department wrote in a news release. “It is not a stretch of the imagination that an alternative headline would include two fatalities resulting from this fire caused by illegal fireworks.”
A 55-year-old woman lived on the first floor and another 55-year-old woman lived on the second floor, the department reported.
As the fire grew, the entire balcony became engulfed in flames, the department reported. It got into the eaves and traveled into the attic. The fire also caused a living room window to break, entered the upper apartment and started the living room on fire.
“Even with a working smoke alarm, it is reasonable to believe that this intense fire entered the apartment so fast that the apartment quickly became an unsurvivable environment and likely would have resulted in fatality No. 1,” the department reported.
Cisco Roushia, 37, said he was visiting a relative in the neighborhood at the time and saw the fire, then ran to alert anyone who might have been home and was the first person upon the scene. While his daughter called 911, Roushia kicked in the door at the first-floor porch and climbed the stairs to the second floor where he found another door. He kicked it in and said he encountered heavy smoke, could see a couch burning near the wall by the balcony and heard a smoke alarm sounding. The smoke and heat prevented him from entering.
“It is reasonable to believe that if the Good Samaritan saw or heard the upper tenant in peril that he would have attempted to rescue her which would have resulted in fatality No. 2,” the Fire Department stated.
“This fire is an example of why any fireworks that leave the ground or explode are illegal in the City of Racine,” the department stated.
The department reiterated concerns about non-trained and equipped people entering a building on fire, however well intended.
“Never enter a burning building. Once you’ve escaped a fire … stay out!” the department implored.