118-year-old building, site of four-alarm fire demolished; building had prior fire safety violations

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) --  A three-alarm fire that broke out Monday night on Milwaukee’s south side reignited into a four-alarm fire Tuesday morning. Some had to jump to an adjacent building in order to get out alive. A tavern and several apartments were destroyed and the building had to be demolished. This, as city officials say the building had prior fire safety violations.

Fire officials were initially called out to the scene near Cesar Chavez Drive near Walker Street around 10:30 p.m. Monday, March 30th.

Firefighters were called back to the building around 8 a.m. Tuesday after smoke was reported coming from the building. The fire was upgraded to a four-alarm.

Damage from the flames was beyond repair. Neighbors gathered Tuesday evening to witness the final moments in the life of a 118-year-old building. Late Tuesday, all that remained was the tavern on the first floor.

"It`s just horrifying. I would hope as they tear it down they might be able to throw some of the personal belongings to the side, but from what I heard everything is just burnt," Cynthia Greenwood said.

The American Red Cross is helping 19 people who lost their homes -- 16 adults and three children from eight families. Also destroyed was the Indios bar below.

"Firemen came into the apartment and said that everybody has to get out," Rosa Espino said.

Espino owned the building. She lived in the building for 30 years, and she's owned the tavern on the first floor for the last 28 years. She says following the fire, there was no choice but to demolish it.

"They said that it`s very, very, very dangerous because it`s falling down," Espino said.

Firefighters tell FOX6 News that some residents had to be rescued from the roof of a building next to the structure. They apparently jumped to that roof to escape the flames.

"Their whole life just flashed before them. They were jumping off the roof," Greenwood said.

Officials say five people were treated on scene for smoke inhalation. Additionally, two firefighters were injured while battling the blaze -- one sustained an ankle injury and one sustained an injury to their shoulder.

The building was built in 1897. It had a history of violations at the time of this fire -- about 20 open violations, all were for maintenance. Although the building had a history of violations related to fire safety, city officials say those were taken care of as of fall 2014.

The Department of Neighborhood Services says last year, inspectors found eight fire safety violations in the building.

"Fire extinguisher maintenance, testing fire alarms, blocked exit," DNS spokesman Todd Weiler said.

The violations were corrected within 30 days, and that may have saved lives.

"The fact is that those life safety issues were in place when the fire occurred today," Weiler said.

"At least no lives were lost," Espino said.


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