“A big old fire and flames. Unbelievable!” Firefighters battle blaze at vacant home on north side

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Milwaukee firefighters battled a fire at a vacant house near 29th and Burleigh Tuesday evening, April 7th.

A police officer was the first to spot the fire -- and called it in shortly after 5:00 p.m. When firefighters arrived, they found the second floor fully engulfed in flames. They brought in two extra engines as neighbors came out to watch.

There were no reports of injury.

It's a boarded up home that most pass by every day without a second glance, but on Tuesday, it became the center of attention.

"I just seen a big old fire and flames. Unbelievable!" Jaimail Trammell said.

"I was around the corner and I just smelled plenty of smoke. It was coming through the house," Shawn Overton said.

"I seen a big fire. I'm like 'dang,' because there's plenty of kids out," Davante Howard said.

"I ran upstairs and told everyone, 'it's a fire! It's a fire!'  And then I ran down the block," Tramaile Evans said.

The home where the fire started is a total loss. The home next door was also damaged.

"It looked like an explosion -- like a stove blew up in there or something," Evans said.

Neighbors say both homes were abandoned.

"I know there be a lot of drug addicts around here so they could be in there," Evans said.

"They appear to be vacant but that doesn't necessarily mean nobody was living in there," Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion Chief Dewayne Smoots said.

Fire officials say they've heard reports that a squatter may have been living in the home.

"I know the city is taking steps to try to combat the issue of vacant homes," Smoots said.

Fire officials say if someone was living inside, the flames would have been too intense for them to survive.

"My assumption is that there was no one living there at the time," Smoots said.

When firefighters were able to make their way into the home, they discovered that no one was inside. Damage is estimated at around $70,000.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.