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'I consider him as a father': Milwaukee family mourns loss of man killed in fire after surviving COVID-19

Posted at 10:15 PM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 23:15:44-05

MILWAUKEE — A south side family is mourning the loss of their father and partner who they identify as the man who died in a fire near 21st and Scott streets on Tuesday.

Michelle Morales says her father figure, Martin Rodriguez, died in their family home. He was 57 years old.

"I'm truly blessed to have him in my life as a father, I consider him as a father," Morales said.

RELATED: 'I wish it was just a dream': 3 deadly fires in two weeks on Milwaukee’s south side

Morales said she met Rodriguez when she was seven years old. Her mother and five other siblings moved into the home with him that Morales said he owned for 17 years. She said Rodriguez has two other biological sons, and said she her siblings as his own.

"He had bought the house with only three rooms and he ended up making seven rooms for everybody to have their own room," Morales said.

Morales said Rodriguez was well-loved within the community. She said he loved working on cars. She said he worked at the Patrick Cudahy plant for 20 years until last May, when he was hospitalized for COVID-19. That's when Morales says Rodriguez suffered two strokes, and doctors didn't think he would make it.

"We would see him every day through Zoom calls to speak to him, to tell him that, not to leave us," Morales said.

Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire. Morales said her mother told her they were having some issues with the heat. She believes the fire started in the basement. Because of the strokes, she said Rodriguez had trouble walking, and she thinks he couldn't get to safety.

Morales said her brother was home at the time and tried to save him, but had to escape through a window on the second floor.

"When he came out of his room it was like he couldn’t do anything, the fire was already all over the first floor, he was screaming his name," Morales said.

All the while Morales said her mother has cancer and has been in the hospital for two weeks, where she learned she lost her home and partner of many years.

"I wasn’t expecting this tragedy to happen to my family or any other family," Morales said. "I'm still in shock and it was just waking up from a bad dream."

Morales is still working on funeral arrangements.

If you need a smoke detector, you can get one for free if you call the City of Milwaukee at 414-286-8980.

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