One person dead in overnight apartment fire

A fire at an apartment building on the 1200 block of Harrison St. in Black River Falls on...
A fire at an apartment building on the 1200 block of Harrison St. in Black River Falls on Sunday left one person dead.(WEAU)
Published: Apr. 2, 2017 at 1:10 PM CDT
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Aaron Gall and Kathy Tobin spent Sunday in their apartment at 1256 Harrison St. cleaning up from a long night.

Just after midnight, Tobin woke up from a burning sensation in her nose.

"I just got him up and then we heard somebody banging on the door and they just told us all to get out," she said to WEAU 13 News on Sunday.

When they did, they saw the apartment of one of their neighbors enveloped in a fireball. It was later determined one person in that apartment died.

Black River Falls Fire Department officials spent much of Sunday boarding up what was left of the apartment and dealing with the tragedy.

"Whether it's law enforcement, fire investigators ... all of us, it has an effect on,” Chief Steven Schreiber, with the Black River Falls Fire Department, said to WEAU 13 News on Sunday. “You feel bad for the family - wish you could have maybe got here a little bit quicker, but you do the best you can and we try to deal with it."

Schreiber said the fire was not intentionally started, but did say they have an “area of interest” as they continue to investigate the cause of the inferno.

The extent of the damage initially made it unclear, according to Schreiber, to know if there was a smoke detector in the burned-out apartment. However, he confirmed every other apartment in the building one.

Yet, Schreiber says it’s what the building didn't have which could have prevented this from being a fatal fire.

"Did not have a sprinkler system in it – a fire suppression system," he said, of the decades-old structure. "I'm not saying that the sprinkler system would have saved this person's life, but it sure would have helped to knock down that fire quickly. We could have got here and, if the person wasn't able to get out, maybe we could’ve gone in and got the person out."

In a press release sent out Sunday afternoon, the Black River Fire Department did not release any more details on the person killed, except to confirm the body was taken to Madison for an autopsy to be performed Monday.

As for Gall and Tobin, they took time Sunday to reflect on what could’ve happened to them.

"We're just thankful that were alive," Gall said.

"I'm thankful I didn't have my grandkids here last night," Tobin answered back.

Said Gall: "You know, it just goes to show you that we need our police and fire departments. They're the ones out there risking their lives to save ours so we appreciate it."

BLACK RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- One person is dead after an overnight apartment fire in Black River Falls, according to the Black River Falls Fire Department.

The department said more information on the victim won't be released until family members are notified.

An autopsy is scheduled for Monday in Madison.

The fire broke out in an apartment building at 1256 Harrison St. The official with Red Cross said they first reported helping four of the eight households at the complex. However, as the morning went on, their office has received more calls for help.

The Red Cross has called in a health team to assist with anyone who needs medication or with other health-related needs. With the death at the complex, mental health specialists and non-denominational counselors were also dispatched.