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Firefighters rescue teens from burning home

By Jennifer Hoff, jhoff@wisctv.com
Published On: Apr 09 2013 03:58:16 PM CDT
Updated On: Apr 05 2013 08:20:17 AM CDT
MADISON, Wis. -

Two siblings and their cousin made it safely out of a burning home Wednesday. A day later, the survivors are sharing their story with News 3.

The Madison Fire Department helped the trio down off the roof they escaped onto and put out the blaze in a matter of minutes.

The fire broke out about 7:15 p.m. in the 900 block of Chapel Hill Road in a duplex some of the family members moved into just a couple months ago.

The family couldn't salvage much but escaped with their lives thanks, in part, to the smoke detectors the city requires in every home.

"When you hear it on the radio, children trapped on a roof, house on fire, your adrenaline just starts pumping," said Madison Fire Department spokeswoman Bernadette Galvez.

She said the smoke was toxic and thick and stopped the three teens from going downstairs.

"It's a good thing they didn't because they wouldn't have made it," Galvez said.

"We had to climb out the window and go out the roof and wait for the Fire Department to come," said 17-year-old Areil Whitehorn. "I just didn't want to die."

Whitehorn and her cousin, 13-year-old Kashan Branch, his 16-year-old sister and their dog heard the smoke detectors going off. The Madison Fire Department said the landlord correctly followed a 2010 city ordinance that requires every house to have 10-year lithium batteries in tamper-resistant alarms on every floor, in every bedroom and sleeping area.

The Madison Common Council passed the ordinance unanimously after a 2007 downtown house fire killed a 23-year-old man. The two-story home had just one working smoke detector.

"That's why we have the ordinance. That's why we want communities to do the same thing because it saves lives," Galvez said.

As for the teens and an adult who was also displaced, they'll stay with family and at a hotel over the weekend. The Red Cross is assisting them with other supplies.

"I was scared, but now I feel brave," Whitehorn said.

Investigators said there is $75,000 worth of damage and that the fire started in the kitchen, but they don't yet know the cause.

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