2010 in Review

Tuesday, January 4, 2011 - 10:29am

After 2 full calendar years with no fire fatalities, the City of Madison experienced a single fatality in 2010. 46-year-old Lolita Waskow died in her home at 524 East Bluff on August 2. The cause of the fire was unattended cooking. There were no working smoke alarms in the 2-story condo.

The fatality came just days before the second phase of Madison's new smoke alarm ordinance went into effect, requiring smoke alarms in all single-family, owner-occupied homes. The first part of the ordinance, which went into effect in August, 2009 required smoke alarms in all multi-family residential structures and rentals.

The smoke alarm ordinance, passed in 2009, led to two grants for smoke alarm installation, totaling more than $100,000. To date, the Department has installed smoke alarms in almost 1,000 City homes, bringing each home into compliance with the new standards requiring an alarm in each bedroom and on each level of the home, including the basement.

With the assistance of Access to Independence, the Department also received a donation of visual smoke alarms for installation in homes with occupants who are deaf.

The fatality in 2010 remains a tragedy. Yet shockingly, even with that loss, the City of Madison remains safer than most cities its size.

Philip Schaenman is the founder of System Planning Corporation's TriData Division in Arlington, VA. Schaenman collects and analyzes data related to fire prevention and safety. Schaenman says based on his research, a population the size of Madison's could expect about 2.5 fatalities per year, or about 7-8 over 3 years. Adding in the surge population from the University would likely mean an expectation of about 8-9 fatalities.

Despite improvement on the fire prevention front, one number continues to trouble firefighters. The Department recorded calls for more than 2.446 false alarms in 2010. A goal for 2011 will be to develop new strategies for reducing that number.


  • Lori Wirth(608) 266-5947