1 dead, 15 displaced in early morning house fires on Milwaukee's north side

Posted at 6:26 AM, Mar 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-21 17:16:07-04

MILWAUKEE -- One person was killed and 15 people are now without a home following an early morning fire on Milwaukee's north side. 

The two-alarm blaze started just before 4 a.m. Wednesday -- near the intersection of 20th & North Ave. 

 Firefighters were battling the fire on two fronts -- as the two homes next to one another both caught fire. 

"Difficulties were the volume of fire we encountered upon arrival," 2nd Battalion Chief Andrew Timm said. "We had reports of trapped victims initially. That's why we went interior and offensive on both sides, both homes at the same time. It stretches your man power. A second alarm was called upon arrival to get more resources."

Crews put the fire out in about two hours but couldn't save the one victim.

When TODAY'S  TMJ4 crews arrived at the scene, one home was engulfed with visible flames coming from the roof --  while the other had heavy heat damage to the side of the home with some flames as well. Both homes appeared to have severe fire damage as the sun rose Wednesday morning. 

One neighbor was so stunned by the early morning chaos, she thought her own home was on fire. 

"I heard this crackling sound," Lillie Pryor said. "I started smelling smoke. I got up and peeked out the window and I seen the fire truck. That's when I lost it. I thought my house was on fire because they was running this way."

Pryor says she knows her neighbors in passing but not extremely well. Nonetheless, she's heart broken by what happened to them. 

"I know my neighbor and there house on fire, it was just like my house was on fire," Pryor said. "Thank god. God protected me. The fire could have gone either way but through the grace of god. It's sad it happened like that but thank god that most of them got out."

Pryor believes her one neighbor was wheelchair bound. She didn't know her neighbor very well but says the neighbor was very nice and quiet. 

Authorities are now working to identify the deceased and determine how the fire started. An autopsy will be performed Wednesday. 

Stay with TODAY'S TMJ4 for further updates on this developing story.