MFD still not sure how body went undiscovered

Posted at 10:10 PM, Mar 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-15 03:02:38-04

MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee's fire chief says he's not ready to give more answers on how firefighters missed a body inside a burning home, but he promises to do better.

Firefighters went door-to-door Monday night with smoke detectors, ready to install them near 26th and Locust.

But the fire chief had no answers as to why a body was found in a burned out building near there, the day after firefighters cleared the scene.

"That's under investigation," says Chief Mark Rohlfing.

Two weeks ago, Lamar Smith broke a window in that burning home and went in with another man, trying to help.

"It was really bad. It was pitch-black, like midnight black inside and you could only see her feet hanging over the top of the stairs," says Smith.

Smith and another man carried Lucy Mae Bowen, 99, from the home. Smith says he asked her if there was anyone else inside.

"She was mumbling things. She told us no one else was inside the house," says Smith.

According to the fire report, firefighters did not find anyone else. The next day, the family called to ask where Lucy Mae Bowen's grandson was. Firefighters went back to the home and found his body upstairs, covered with debris.

Chief Rohlfing says how that happened is under investigation.

"We are going to use that tragedy as a positive to focus education and looking at our standard operating procedures so we make sure something like that doesn't happen again," Chief Rohlfing says.

Lamar Smith says he's upset with the situation, but doesn't blame the fire fighters.

"Honestly I thought we had done a good thing. My kids got to see it. And then to find out the guy was still inside the house. I felt really bad," Smith says.

The chief says it will take between four to six weeks before the investigation is complete. He did say they immediately reviewed procedures after the fire.