People displaced on Thanksgiving after apartment fire in Sun Prairie

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SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. (WMTV) - The property manager of an apartment unit in Sun Prairie confirmed with NBC15 that residents were able to go back inside their units, following an apartment fire early Thursday morning.

Everyone except residents of the apartment where the fire originated were cleared to go back inside.

A 26-unit apartment building had to be evacuated in Sun Prairie on Thanksgiving morning because of a fire started by a candle.

According to the Sun Prairie Fire Department, just before 4 a.m. a fire was reported at the apartments on Severson Drive.

When fire crews and police responded, they saw heavy smoke on the first floor, and worked quickly to evacuate people living there.

Firefighters worked aggressively to stop the flames so they could move to the second floor of the apartment building, and were able to evacuate most people there, except for two who were trapped in their apartments by the heavy smoke.

One resident had to be taken down by ladder from a second-floor balcony. Another person was found by firefighters when they had to forcibly enter a few units. Luckily, both were not injured.

Crews were able to contain the fire to a single apartment, but smoke made its way to both floors leaving damage throughout the building. At least two apartments are uninhabitable, and the Red Cross is working with the people living there that may be displaced.

An investigation found that a candle had started the fire.

In the Sun Prairie Fire Department's original press release, it stated that "there were no smoke detectors going off in the entire building to alert residents nor does this building have a sprinkler system."

Fire Chief Chris Garrison later clarified that comment, releasing this statement:

"All- as Fire Chief, I would like to expound on the statement above. The Building involved in the fire we responded to this morning is compliant with all Fire Codes for a building built in 1970’s. The owner has passed all recent fire inspections. The building does have smoke detection where required by code, but the detectors were not activated. The building does have a manual pull-station that works, but an individual would have to pull it to activate the alarm to notify residents. This does not comply with today’s systems but is also not required to be retro-fitted to today’s standards.

Today, the existing fire protection requirements for multifamily dwellings are more restrictive than the statutory provision. But a building owner is not required to update systems when the code changes.

As a Fire Chief, I would like to see all residential buildings in the city be fully alarmed, and have working sprinkler systems also. This would come at a huge cost to many building owners.

We as an organization will continue to try to implement the best safety precautions for our residents. The fact is, fire detection and sprinkler systems save lives, and this is our job to continue to try and make these systems mandatory moving forward for the safety of our residents."