2022 Finalist, Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting

Wires and Fires

Electrical fires are often treated as accidents in Milwaukee, but an investigation by reporters at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel found that they are actually foreseeable tragedies that hit Black renters by far the hardest, with the government doing little to fix the problem. As part of their reporting, the team hired a master electrician to inspect a random selection of homes in Milwaukee’s hardest-hit area, which found that 80% of single and two-family rental properties in the study area had serious electrical problems. The investigation prompted an immediate outcry by leaders in state government and prompted city officials to reexamine and potentially restore an inspection program previously mothballed by state lawmakers. The city is also launching a tenant education program around the issue of electrical safety and is examining potential requirements for city agencies to better document electrical fires.

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