After losing their son in a fire, a Plymouth family continues to advocate for fire safety
MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - It’s been fifteen years since a Plymouth family lost their son in a two-story house fire. His family and the Madison Fire Department are asking everyone to be vigilant when it comes to checking their smoke alarms.
On a snowy Sunday in 2007, UW-La Crosse student Peter Talen came to visit his brother in Madison and died in a fire which started because a cigarette butt was not properly put out. His mother Patty Talen says she often thinks of her son.
“It’s like my heart breaks all the time because you go, they had so much potential ahead of them,” Patty Talen said.
She says the fire started on the porch.
“That fire blew through that front window and it’s all of a sudden you’re so much more aware of how these things can happen,” Patty Talen said.
His mother received a call from a burn unit saying her younger son Andy was hurt, but she knew something might have happened to Peter.
“It feels like it was yesterday,” Patty Talen said. “You know it’s like anyone that goes through any kind of grief it comes in waves. Especially when you lose a young person.”
His mother stresses the importance of changing smoke alarm batteries. During this fire, four smoke alarms in Peter Talen’s house had their batteries removed. Only one smoke alarm was working.
“Do it, don’t be in our shoes,” Patty Talen said.
Madison’s Fire Marshal Ed Ruckriegel stayed connected with the family and says this tragedy changed the city’s smoke alarm ordinance. The ordinance now requires homes to have tamper-resistant alarms with 10-year lithium ion batteries. He hopes that more can be done in the future to prevent fatal fires.
“Fire sprinkler saves lives; they save property and they save the environment. Hopefully someday I don’t know if I’ll ever see it but hopefully there will be fire sprinklers in every home in Madison,” Ruckriegel said.
Talen’s family continues to keep his spirit alive by telling his stories.
“He was a very caring little fellow--really cared about a lot of people that other people would ignore and that’s the thing we miss most of all,” Patty Talen said.
Madison Fire Department has more information on how to choose a smoke alarm, where to place them and maintenance on its website.
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