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Mutual aid system helps Hales Corners extinguish house fire

April 1, 2014

Hales Corners — About 12 area cities helped provide resources to extinguish a house fire March 20 on Kurtz Road while providing coverage to the Hales Corners Fire Department as part of a mutual aid system called MABAS.

MABAS, or Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, is a predetermined set of resources that fire stations can call for if the station is overwhelmed from an incident. This was the first time Hales Corners requested MABAS, or "box alarm," for the village's second house fire of the year.

"Nobody gets left behind in this system. It takes a lot of stress off incident commanders and dispatch," said Andy Jensen, president of MABAS District 107, which includes Hales Corners.

Firefighters were dispatched at 4:29 p.m. for a blaze that had started in a residential garage and moved to the residents' home and second story, consuming up to 30 percent of it, said Lieutenant Nick Schreiber.

"We were completely overwhelmed and had no additional resources and still had tasks to be done on the ground. When that happens, that's when you go to the next level for more resources," said Schreiber.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated. Schreiber said the homeowner had been repairing lawn equipment that day.

The residents were an elderly couple and suffered mild burns but no major injuries, Schreiber said. It took the fire department until 6:30 p.m. to extinguish the fire.

Fifteen Hales Corners personnel were on the scene. Through the MABAS system, an additional 40 fire personnel assisted in firefighting and brought additional fire trucks, ambulances, hose lines and ladders.

In addition to providing on-site resources to municipalities, MABAS keeps neighboring cities from being depleted of resources and covers their fire stations in the case of additional emergencies in the area.

"It's a great system, it brought us the resources that we needed to take care of the incident in a quick fashion; everyone worked great together and everything worked out very well," said Schreiber.

Assisting cities included Wauwtosa, Brookfield, Oak Creek, Franklin, Greendale, Greenfield, New Berlin, West Allis, Tess Corners, South Milwaukee, St. Francis and 128th Air National Guard.

MABAS has existed since the late 1960s and was heavily rooted in northern Illinois. Now it includes more than 750 fire departments within 75 divisions in the Midwest, according to its website.

MABAS is implemented in 52 of Wisconsin's 72 divisions, said Jensen.

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