MILWAUKEE – It was a busy Sunday for Milwaukee firefighters, with crews battling three fires during an hour-and-a-half span on Sunday, November 19. One of those fires, an apartment fire near 76th and Brown Deer, killed a nine-year-old girl, Aria Jacque and left an elderly woman in critical condition.
Fire Chief Aaron Lipski told Wisconsin’s Afternoon News Monday that his investigators haven’t confirmed a cause yet.
“We really want to be sure especially when we have a tragic loss of life to get as much information as we can,” Lipski said, acknowledging that it’s often difficult to determine the exact cause of a fire.
Lipski described the conditions in the apartment as a “hoarding situation,” clarifying that he doesn’t mean to disrespect anyone, only to note how hard it is to rescue people in such conditions.
“It absolutely slows our progress down getting through and into all the spaces in a burning home to rescue a person who is living in those conditions,” he said.
His main issue is the danger it poses to firefighters who leap in without a moment’s hesitation to attempt the rescue.
“My firefighters are put at extreme risk crawling in these little aisles with flowing water and with fire and superheated gases all around them,” Lipski said. “It’s almost an untenable atmosphere.”
Lipski’s concern for his firefighters is the crux of his other major issue he discussed: the ongoing fires at Northridge Mall. The crumbling property has now had seven fires in the last 15 months.
“I don’t have a vote on what’s going to happen. If I did, I would drive out there with a bulldozer myself and it would come down this afternoon,” Lipski said.
Lipski said he has his firefighters stationed on the northwest side constantly patrol Northridge, noting where entrances have been broken into. He said that despite his close work with other city departments, he remains frustrated at the lack of movement with Northridge’s foreign ownership, Black Spruce Enterprises.
“The system is plainly not working as designed if we can just keep allowing this to go on.”
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