“It’s just a mess:” 3-alarm fire destroys 2 homes; firefighters challenged by bitter cold

MILWAUKEE -- A three-alarm fire destroyed one house and badly damaged another on Milwaukee's north side on Thursday morning, December 28th. Fire officials said they were called to the scene at the corner of 21st and Concordia around 9:30 a.m.

Three-alarm fire near 21st and Concordia

Fire at 21st and Concordia

Deputy Fire Chief Aaron Lipski said the fire started at the house on the southeast corner of the intersection and spread to the home next door. Lipski added were no reports of injuries.

"I was scared. I jumped up immediately," said Latoya Lewis.

Lewis said that was her response to the phone call letting her know her sister's house was one of those that caught fire Thursday morning.

Fire at 21st and Concordia

"I was just grateful they weren't in the house. I was afraid they were when I came, but they weren't -- and I'm just grateful everyone's OK," said Lewis.

House fire at 21st and Concordia, Milwaukee

Lewis said her sister lived in the corner house with her boyfriend and their 18-month-old son.

Lipski said when firefighters arrived on the scene and saw how the fire had spread, they pulled a second alarm.

House fire at 21st and Concordia, Milwaukee

"Which brings a whole host of additional companies to the scene because now we're fighting fires in two buildings. It really breaks things up for us," Lipski said.

Lipski said between divided resources among the two burning hours and the frigid conditions hampering response times, it eventually became a three-alarm fire.

"Everything is slower. Getting the rigs and the firefighters to the scene is slower. Getting the hose lines deployed. We ran into a frozen hydrant. Our very first hydrant we tried to take on the corner, inoperable," Lipski said.

Lipski estimated the total amount of time needed to extinguish both fires was about 25 percent longer than if weather conditions were fair. Lipski said the corner house was a total loss while the home next door would be uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Fire at 21st and Concordia

Fire at 21st and Concordia

Lewis said that goes for all of her sister's belongings -- including the Christmas presents for her 18-month-old boy.

Fire at 21st and Concordia

Three-alarm fire near 21st and Concordia

"We're trying to figure out what's the next step, how do we get her housed, and how do we replace the baby's belongings. It's just a mess," Lewis said.

Lipski said Thursday the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

A GoFundMe page has been established for Latressa Turner, the sister of Latoya Lewis. CLICK HERE if you would like to pitch in.