State fire marshal, ATF now help in search for fatal fire cause

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WEST ALLIS (WITI) -- West Allis investigators are getting help from the state fire marshal as well as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in their search for a cause of a fatal house fire.

The fire at a duplex near 57th and Lapham broke out early Sunday morning, March 17th. A teenager and a four-year-old boy were able to get out of the building. But two other teens died in the fire.

Though they are making progress, the acting fire chief for West Allis says this is a tough case.

"It's difficult anytime, but when children are trapped, it's especially difficult for them," said Charles Padgett, Acting Fire Chief for West Allis.

The bodies of Michael Gonzales and Isaiha Kobow were found in the home's attic, near where the fire started. Acting Chief Padgett says the loss of children makes this tougher than most.

"Officers are still working through feelings. They're human beings. So when they go to incidents such as this, it's disturbing," said Padgett.

The youth of the victims is reflected in the faces of those who came to mourn. Friends of the two boys have been coming by the home to say goodbye. 13-year-old Joel Gonzales also came back to the scene Monday night.

"This is when I went back into the house to try to get my older brother and I stepped on something real hot and it burned," said Gonzales.

Joel was able to rescue his four-year-old brother from the lower level of the home. But he got hurt trying to rescue his older brother, Michael. Joel said the crowd, which was often hearing shouting "I love you," gave him strength.

"Makes me feel like I have people on my side, like that are here for me," said Gonzales.

The community is coming together for the families of the victims. The Kobow has set up a fund to cover funeral expenses at Landmark Credit Union. The Gonzales family is working on setting up a fund.

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