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‘The fire just blew up:’ Quick-thinking neighbors helped firefighters pull elderly man from burning apartment

MILWAUKEE -- An elderly man and a Milwaukee firefighter were injured in fire at an apartment building near 8th and Galena Monday morning, July 16. Witnesses said more people would have been hurt if not for some quick-thinking neighbors.

Firefighters were called out to the apartment complex shortly before 7 a.m.

Looking back at what's left of her apartment, Brenda Shands said she's thankful she escaped the fire that tore through the Plymouth Senior Apartments with nothing but her life.

Fire near 8th and Galena in Milwaukee

Brenda Shands

"The fire just blew up, but I'm here. God is good," said Shands.

Seconds after the smoke alarm went off, Shands said flames were climbing her stairwell.

"Fire exploded, so we had to run through the fire," said Shands.

Also running through the flames were Shands' heroes.

Fire near 8th and Galena in Milwaukee

Fire near 8th and Galena in Milwaukee

Fire near 8th and Galena in Milwaukee

Fire near 8th and Galena in Milwaukee

"Oh my God, that boy. I can't believe them. They were like the firefighters," said Shands.

A neighbor's grandchildren heard the alarm and jumped into action. They led Shands out the front door and then started banging on another unit.

"When they opened the door, the fire blazed out," said Annesha Adams, witness.

Those quick-thinking neighbors ran outside. They got a ladder and a baseball bat. They put it up to the first floor window to try to break the window and rescue the man trapped inside.

Fire near 8th and Galena in Milwaukee

Together, they got the elderly man to crawl to the window -- where firefighters would pull him out and take him to Saint Mary's Hospital.

"Hopefully he's alright. God bless him. I'm just thankful my cousin is still here," said Adams.

Bat. Chief Williamson

Fire responders said the ladder in place when they arrived helped them reach the victims quickly.

"That (ladder) was awesome because it helped us do our job that much more efficiently," said Battalion Chief Williamson.

Shands gave her thanks to the men who carried it.

"The neighbors, the quick thinking of the neighbors, it was just unbelievable," said Shands.

One of the young men who carried the ladder cut his hand and knee. His cousin told FOX6 News he was shaken up - but is going to be OK.

Milwaukee firefighters said the fire started on the first floor of the building -- but they haven't determined a cause.