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1 killed, Milwaukee firefighter badly injured in 3-building blaze

Firefighter suffered burns while attempting to rescue person trapped in one home's attic

A red fire engine door with the words "Milwaukee Fire Department" on it.
A Milwaukee Fire Department fire engine sits in the station on Feb. 15, 2024. Angela Major/WPR

One person died and a Milwaukee firefighter was badly burned early Sunday in a fire that spread to three houses.

Authorities did not release the identities of either person. The firefighter suffered burns on 49 percent of his body, Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said at a press conference.

“I’m telling you, we were about 30 seconds away from talking about planning a firefighter funeral today,” Lipski said.

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The fire happened on the 2400 block of South Eighth Street in Milwaukee, among a style of home known as Polish flats. Lipski noted that the wooden homes are so close together that “you can’t even extend your arms” between them, which allowed the fire to spread. 

After receiving a call at 4:49 a.m., the department’s first unit arrived at 4:54 a.m., with other engines responding soon after. The fire had already spread across houses.

Firefighters removed one person from the first floor of one of the burning homes, and that resident told them another person was trapped in the attic. But narrow, cluttered staircases made getting to the second floor difficult, Lipski said. The firefighters located the victim and began trying to remove that person when the fire “flashed over,” Lipski said, and “became enveloped in flames – 100 percent in flames.”

That happened at 5:05 a.m. Other firefighters were able to remove the injured firefighter through a front window at 5:17 a.m., and to bring out the deceased victim shortly after that.

The injured firefighter has been with the department for three years and is the son of a retired Milwaukee firefighter, Lipski said.

“We credit the training and the drive and the dedication, the aggression, the smart firefighting of his counterparts, his peer firefighters, in saving his life here today,” Lipski said.

At the press conference, Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson expressed sympathy to the family of the deceased. And while the injured firefighter will face a long recovery, Johnson expressed optimism that he will return to the job.

“This is a firefighter who is a fighter,” Johnson said. “(He’s) somebody that we’re going to have to try to hold back because he’s going to be pushing and prodding to get back to health and get back on the job, because he loves it so much.”