Was a dehumidifier to blame? Firefighters save 18-year-old's life, trapped in basement during fire

WEST BEND -- West Bend firefighters were able to save a life on Monday, September 26th.

An 18-year-old girl was trapped in a basement after some sort of explosion and fire in her home.

It happened Monday morning on Eagle Lane.

Firefighters responded to the home on Eagle Lane around 8:15 a.m. after the Washington County Sheriff's Office was notified of the fire by a 911 caller, reporting an 18-year-old family member was trapped in the basement.

Upon firefighters' arrival, a moderate amount of smoke was found coming from the single-family home.

An investigation revealed five people were inside the home at the time, ranging in age from 54 to 12.

The 18-year-old girl's 24-year-old brother was woken up by some type of an explosion. He then discovered heavy smoke and fire coming from the basement.

He got everyone out of the house, and tried to break into the basement via an exterior window.

He was able to tell firefighters exactly where his was, and despite the heavy flames, they rushed in.

"This is my first time ever saving someone from a house fire," Kyle Demler, firefighter with the West Bend Fire Department said.

"This is not an everyday occurrence for us -- still alive, still have a chance," Alan Hefter, firefighter with the West Bend Fire Department said.

The 18-year-old girl was taken to a hospital in the Town of Polk and then transferred to St. Mary's Burn Center in Milwaukee.

Washington County Sheriff's officials said thanks to her brother's and firefighters' efforts, her injuries appeared to be minor and non-life threatening.

The 24-year-old man was taken to the hospital for treatment of minor cuts to his hands and arms.


The official cause of the fire is under investigation.

Authorities are investigating whether a dehumidifier was to blame.

Damage to the home and contents has been estimated at approximately $300,000.

The American Red Cross responded to the scene to assist the home's occupants.

Falls Baptist Church in Menomonee Falls has set up a YouCaring account for this family. Church officials say the 18-year-old girl who was rescued has Down Syndrome.

"We invite everyone who has heard of this tragedy to join us in helping this wonderful family," said Stephen Van Gelderen, an assistant pastor at Falls Baptist Church. "Jim and Julie Craig are very active in the community, counseling individuals with substance abuse issues and leading a faith-based program in jails and prisons in Milwaukee, Waukesha, and Washington counties."

All funds from the YouCaring account will go directly to the family. CLICK HERE if you'd like to donate.