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Woman and baby killed in massive fire on Milwaukee's south side

A 27-year-old woman and a 16-month-old girl died and four homes were damaged in a massive fire near 19th and Burnham Wednesday afternoon.
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Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 12, 2023

MILWAUKEE — A woman and baby were killed in a massive fire that damaged four homes on Milwaukee's south side Wednesday afternoon.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office confirms the victims were a 27-year-old woman and a 16-month-old girl. The ME's office has since identified the 27-year-old woman as Maria Castillo Cortez.

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Fire crews responded to the three-alarm fire near 19th and Burnham around 4 p.m.

According to the Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD), three of the homes are a complete loss. The other home has significant damage but is still standing.

WATCH: Will Harrison shared this 24-minute video with TMJ4 where he captured the progression of the massive blaze

Milwaukee south side fire damages 4 homes

In an update Thursday evening, MFD says they discovered the bodies around 8 a.m. after they were able to dig through the rubble. Crews learned of unaccounted people within 15 minutes of arriving on the scene of the fire Wednesday. However, they were not told if those people were in the building. Officials say they were unable to get into the building due to the fire's size.

The Red Cross responded to the scene to help six people. Anyone needing help from the Red Cross is asked to call 1-800-236-8680.

Due to the fire, Children's Wisconsin says its Forest Home Clinic urgent care was closed Wednesday afternoon. Other nearby clinics with urgent care include Mayfair and New Berlin.

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The cause of the fire remains under investigation, but MFD says windy conditions played a factor in how the fire spread. The combination of gusty winds and record-high temperatures created high fire danger Wednesday across much of the state. Gov. Tony Evers declared a State of Emergency due to the extreme risks.

A GoFundMewas launched for some of the victims of the fire.

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State of Emergency issued in Wisconsin due to extreme fire risk

On Wednesday, Gov. Tony Evers declared a State of Emergency due to the extreme fire risk conditions across the state.

A red flag warning is active from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. across Southeast Wisconsin due to gust winds and relative humidity, which could lead to dangerous fire conditions.

Warm temperatures, low humidity, gusty winds, and exceptionally dry fuels are anticipated and can result in catastrophic fires. Those conditions will be present Wednesday, hence the executive order from the governor.

According to the DNR, the counties under an extreme risk for wildfires are Adams, Buffalo, Calumet, Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Grant, Green Lake, Green, Iowa, Jackson, Jefferson, Juneau, Kenosha, La Crosse, Lafayette, Marquette, Milwaukee, Monroe, Outagamie, Ozaukee, Portage, Racine, Richland, Rock, Sauk, Sheboygan, Trempealeau, Vernon, Walworth, Washington, Waukesha, Waupaca, Waushara, Winnebago and Wood counties, including the snow-free areas of Clark, Marathon and Shawano counties.


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