Fire damages 2 homes in Milwaukee's Sherman Park neighborhood

Fire breaks out at 33rd and Hadley
Posted at 6:22 AM, Aug 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-18 17:32:40-04

MILWAUKEE -- An early-morning fire near 33rd and Hadley destroyed a vacant home and badly damaged the duplex next door. 

No one was hurt. But according to the American Red Cross, seven people from the duplex are now without a place to go due to the fire, which was called in at 4:50 a.m. Thursday.

"I just heard somebody outside yelling and banging on the door," said one tenant of the duplex, who did not want to be identified. "It's upsetting. We're all homeless now." 

Red Cross workers at the scene said they gave the displaced tenants, which include two children, personal hygiene kits, as well as money for hotels rooms and food. 

The man who spoke with TODAY'S TMJ4 said he was hoping to stay with a friend so that he could further stretch the stipend from the Red Cross. 

"Spending money for a hotel is the last resort," he said. 

"I'm still alive. It could've been worse," the tenant said. "But my clothing, and some of my personal stuff that means a lot to me, I hope that stuff is all OK. It's all still in there. My electronics are in there, too." 

As of 9 a.m., the man said tenants had not been allowed to enter the property to retrieve items. 

He does not have renter's insurance. 

Red Cross workers said the organization's nurses and caseworkers will follow up with the displaced tenants. 

According to the Milwaukee Fire Department, the blaze spread from a vacant property to the duplex next door because of how close together the two homes are. 

The vacant house is a total loss, the fire department said. 

The duplex was badly burned in each of the rooms, and even the attic, on the side of the building that faces the vacant property. 

The property's owner said the vacant home where the fire began has been empty since he bought the duplex roughly five years ago. He said there have long been issues with people breaking into it and using drugs inside. 

He said he was frustrated the city hadn't torn it down, and that he holds city officials responsible for the damage to his property. 

Alderman Russell Stamper, whose district includes 33rd and Hadley, said he was alarmed by the fire. 

"To the homeowner and the people that live there, I'm very sorry and I understand their concern," he said. 

"I know the city did put a significant amount of money in the budget for demolition," Stamper said. "It's possible this vacant property could have been on the demolition list and it didn't come to that yet."

Stamper said the property would almost certainly be torn down in the next few days. 

Thursday's blaze was the third house fire in the area this week. 

On Monday, firefighters responded to a blaze at a home on 41st and Burleigh around 4:30 a.m. No one was hurt, but the building's second floor was badly damaged. 

Tuesday, a fire was reported around 4:30 a.m. near 50th and Clarke. 

According to the Milwaukee Fire Department, a vacant home went up in flames. The rear of the building eventually collapsed, and the fire caused damage to surrounding homes. Six people were displaced from a nearby duplex. 

"MPD is investigating the most recent fire from this morning, as it appears suspicious," said a spokesperson for Milwaukee Police in an email. "While the other fires don't appear to be related at this time, we continue to investigate." 

Stamper said there have been nine incidents of suspicious fires in his district since Sunday, in which eyewitnesses have reported seeing young men carrying gas cans. 

Houses, garages, and even garbage cans have been burned. 

"I want our whole community to be on the lookout," Stamper said. "We're not sure if that's what happened here today, but regardless, we've got an issue with vacant houses."