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Studying attic fires: Huge flames at home on city’s north side, but this one was a controlled burn

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A huge house fire on Milwaukee's north side on Wednesday, July 2nd -- but this one was a controlled burn. It was part of a project involving the Milwaukee Fire Department and the Underwriters Laboratories to learn the most effective and efficient way to put out attic fires.

A home near 5th and Burleigh was on fire on Wednesday evening -- and lots of people came out to see the huge flames.

"Yes - huge!" Ruth Howard said.

Milwaukee firefighters were close by, but they were watching too.

That's because this fire was part of a training exercise.

"We are very excited to take part in it. It will inform our future tactical and strategic decisions as we move forward," Assistant Chief Dan Lipski said.

The Milwaukee Fire Department teamed up with Underwriters Laboratories for the study.

"We`re trying to simulate worst case scenarios for the fire department," Steve Kerber, Director of UL Firefighting Safety said.

Each room was equipped with thermal cameras and a wiring system to detect temperatures. They started the fire in a second story bedroom, but the focus was the attic.

The UL and Milwaukee Fire Department  wanted this experiment to be so real, they did what most homeowners do and turned the attic into additional living space.

Adding new walls creates an empty space where the fire can travel -- making it dangerous for firefighters.

"At some point, the knee wall or this gypsum board here can fail and when that fails it comes in on the firefighters -- so we`re looking for ways to understand that better and more effectively put water on it before things go bad," Kerber said.

This training gives firefighters the science behind attic fires, and gives Ruth Howard peace of mind.

"I think it`s a good idea that they`re doing this research because it can save lives," Howard said.

This study is funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

The study continues through July 9th.

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