Mesh on windows impeded rescue of kids killed in house fire

RACINE -- Firefighters in Racine say mesh used for security on one of the windows of a house that caught fire early Thursday, November 8th slowed their entrance into the building.

When firefighters first arrived on the scene of the house fire on Linden Ave., they were told children were trapped inside in a bedroom. The first window they approached to get inside, was half-covered by security mesh. They checked a second window, which did not have the mesh, and were able to get inside. Those few seconds could have made the difference in this case.

"What it does is it inhibits our ability to get through and get in those windows to make an effective rescue," Racine Fire Chief Steve Hansen said.

The security mesh and even steel bars are a problem Milwaukee firefighters come across almost daily.

"From our perspective, yes, it's nothing but trouble," MFD Battalion 1 Chief Christopher Snyder said.

Milwaukee firefighters have an array of tools to cut through bars, mesh and metal. It includes everything from the Jaws of Life to crow bars and sledge hammers. Everything's stored in a toolbox the team can use at a moment's notice.

MFD warns against security measures on windows. But officials say if you have to have them, make a plan.

"If you do have bars on the window or anything, what I do recommend is have an alternate escape plan. Know a different route and how you would get out in an emergency," Kevin Hafemann with the MFD said. 

The Racine Fire Department has similar tools when it comes to cutting through security bars or mesh.

For the record, there are no laws prohibiting anyone from having bars or mesh on their windows.

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