Tragedy strikes twice as separate home fires, years apart, kill family members

Blog Post created by freddurso Employee on Jul 17, 2015

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Ronnie Walkup (left) and Christian Young, who both died in a 2015 home fire

Flashback 1989.

Then Fire Marshal Jeff Hudson was one of the first on the scene of a home fire in Shawnee, Kansas, where he noticed heavy smoke billowing from the structure. The fire department's response was immediate, but they were unable to save a five-year-old boy, Cody Young. He was survived by his two grandparents, mother, and brother. All were home at the time of the fire, but had survived.

"We lived in a community that rarely experienced a tragic death of any kind," Jeff Hudson, now one of NFPA's fire sprinkler specialists whose region covers Kansas, tells NFPA. "An event like that touched the hearts of the entire community. There was consolation to help the family get their lives back."


Around the time of the fire, some buzz around the U.S. was brewing on home fire sprinklers, says Hudson, who notes that San Clemente, California, and Scottsdale, Arizona, had adopted sprinkler ordinances. "It was clear, even in their infancy, that home fire sprinklers could save lives."

However, in 2010, the Kansas Legislature passed anti-sprinkler legislation, preventing local jurisdictions from adopting sprinkler requirements.


Fast forward to May of this year. To the shock of the Shawnee Fire Department, a fire erupts at the same household where Cody had died more than 25 years ago. A neighbor who sees the fire breaks down the front door and notices two womenone of them being June Younglying on the floor. With help from the neighbor, they escape. A man in his 30s also survives the blaze, but 63-year-old Ronnie Walkup and his great-nephew, Christian Young, 3, die of carbon monoxide poisoning from the fire. Christian was the grandson of June, who also lost her son, Cody, in the 1989 fire. 


"Our hearts go out to them," Shawnee Fire Marshal Corey Sands, a member of the Kansas Fire Sprinkler Coalition, tells NFPA. "We can’t imagine what they went through and had to live through it again."


!|src=|alt=Kansas Fire Sprinkler Coalition|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=Kansas Fire Sprinkler Coalition|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb08544783970d img-responsive!The latest tragedy serves as a reminder to exercise safe practices at home, says Sands. Hoarding conditions and improper use of electrical cords were found inside the home. Understanding fire's rapid spread is another important lesson people need to learn, he added. "People's perception of fire is what they see on TV and in movies. Every fire I’ve been to, I sit curbside with homeowners and they always tell me, 'That fire moved faster that I thought it would have.'"

All the more reason for increased safety at home, notes NFPA's Hudson. "What's crystal clear everyday for sprinkler advocates, you watch another family experience another tragic loss. It makes the sprinkler advocacy more important, more driven, more crystal clear. There's such a simple solution to this problem."


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Please do your part to help spread the message that sprinklers save lives. Use the free resources from NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative for assistance.</p>