Sun Prairie house balloon frame made firefighting more dangerous

SUN PRIARY, Wis. (WMTV) – As Sun Prairie firefighters arrived on the scene of a house fire Monday afternoon within minutes and brought the flames under control quickly, the city’s fire department pointed out that the way the house had been built made the fire more treacherous.

A firefighter who lived two houses from the burning building was the first person to arrive on the scene shortly after 4 p.m. and reported seeing flames coming from behind the structure, according to the Sun Prairie Fire & Rescue Co. The first engine fire reached the house, in the 100 block of Dewey Street, less than three minutes later.

As firefighters confirmed everyone had escaped safely, an engine crew ran a garden hose through the side door as a ladder crew made their way through the front door and headed upstairs, the fire department said. The statement said firefighters were rushing to check the second floor and attic because the structure was a balloon building house.

“Fires in these houses (are) very dangerous because the fire can quickly spread to the attic from the lower floors,” the SPFR statement explained.

Firefighters managed to stop the fire from spreading from the laundry room, and the fire marshal determined that it originated in the clothes dryer.

Investigators estimated smoke and water damage to the home at approximately $10,000. Once the fire was extinguished, the people who lived in the house were allowed to return.

No residents or firefighters were injured in the incident.

In Tuesday’s statement, firefighters specifically noted the home’s balloon-frame construction. He described these houses as having a continuous timber frame wall element that runs from the foundation to the attic. Posts are usually 16 inches apart and have no vertical firestops except perhaps a door or window. The construction method allows fire to spread more easily to upper floors, SPFR said.

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