Milwaukee Fire Department found a gas leak when canvassing a neighborhood to install smoke detectors

Originally published by Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Fire Department is starting to canvass neighborhoods to check for fire safety after a particularly rough several months of fires in the city. The Fire Department is looking to see if smoke alarms are installed properly, but on a recent canvass, a gas leak was discovered.

Acting Fire Chief Aaron Lipski worked with Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa to begin conversations around how best to prevent fires and protect the community.

There have been several deadly fires in Zamarripa’s district, which covers areas near the Mitchell Park Domes south to Jackson Park. Officials have confirmed that three of the four fatal fires in January and February involved structures without smoke detectors.

Lipski proposed neighborhood canvasses, which are used by fire departments to install new smoke detectors in homes.

With Safe and Sound and the Fire Department, Lipski and Zamarripa rallied volunteers to help canvass neighborhoods in Zamarripa’s district.

While canvassing, Zamarripa came across a resident who could not speak English or Spanish but was pointing at her nose giving a smelling sign. Zamarripa said she and her crew instantly smelled gas.

Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa speaks about helping an immigrant woman who didn't speak English or Spanish but signaled by touching her nose that there was the smell of natural gas in her home.
Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa speaks about helping an immigrant woman who didn’t speak English or Spanish but signaled by touching her nose that there was the smell of natural gas in her home.

Zamarripa and volunteers immediately began knocking on doors to evacuate residents and find the source of the gas leak.

All residents were safely evacuated. Lipski said he believed the source was a malfunctioning gas stove.

“We recognize that being out in the community sometimes is more than just what you thought you were there to do. And in this case, lives truly were saved,” Lipski said at a news conference Wednesday.

In less than two hours, the Fire Department and volunteers were able to install between 35 and 40 smoke alarms in homes. Many of the volunteers were bilingual and played a major role in communicating with Hispanic residents.

There will be another canvass March 10. Anyone who would like to volunteer can reach out to Zamarripa, 414-286-3533, or the Safe and Sound office, 414-220-4798. Visit safeandsound.org for more information.

If you smell gas, evacuate the area and call We Energies at 800-261-5325.

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