Firefighters battle 3-alarm fire, bitter cold at apartment building on Milwaukee’s east side

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MILWAUKEE -- Firefighters on Monday morning, March 4 responded to the scene of a three-alarm fire at an apartment building on Milwaukee's east side -- and the bitter cold made it challenging for first responders. A wind chill advisory was in effect for all of southeast Wisconsin until 10 a.m.

The call came in around 2:45 a.m. It happened near Farwell and Belleview.

In the wake of the fire, American Red Cross volunteers stepped up to help at least 13 people displaced as a result.

"No way anyone would want to start their day with this type of tragedy," said Justin Kern, Red Cross spokesman. "It is brutally cold out here, so don't go outside if you do not have to."

Fire officials said it was believed the fire started in a garage. Flames quickly took over the building.

"Heavy fire conditions upon arrival on all three floors," said Mike Blackwood, Milwaukee Fire Department deputy chief.

Fire officials said subzero temperatures froze their hoses, and snow made it difficult to get trucks in.

"Access on the street here, obviously, with the snowbanks and a couple cars parking on both sides, we could only get a few rigs in here," said Blackwood.

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Charles Bartlett was sound asleep, and woke up to what he hoped was just a dream.

"They said, 'Building's on fire. We got to go,' and I was like, 'Oh, oh, okay,'" said Bartlett. "I wanted to make sure nobody was there, because it looked bad."

When the flames were extinguished, three floors worth of ice remained -- with neighbors wondering how this happened.

Thankfully, no one was hurt. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

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