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Massive Milwaukee fire caused by grill; mother and child killed, 4 homes damaged

KTVZ - NewsChannel 21

By Madison Goldbeck

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    MILWAUKEE (WTMJ) — A charcoal grill might have caused a massive fire that killed a woman and her baby and damaged four homes on Milwaukee’s south side.

According to the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office (MCMEO), a preliminary investigation reveals that a tenant might have been using a grill on a back porch on April 12 when the home caught on fire and rapidly spread to three other houses.

MCMEO identified the victims as 27-year-old Maria Castillo Cortez and her 16-month-old daughter. They lived on the third floor of a home near 19th and Burnham.

The Milwaukee Fire Department (MFD) extinguished the fire and found a body the following day when they were sifting through the rubble. Crews learned of two unaccounted individuals within 15 minutes of arriving on the scene of the fire. However, they were not told if those people were in the building. Officials say they were unable to get into the building due to the fire’s size.

Fire crews responded to the three-alarm fire around 4 p.m. The medical examiner’s report says the grill was not properly extinguished after it was used and tenants were unable to put the fire out themselves. The fire department said windy conditions caused the fire to extend to neighboring homes and that the asphalt siding on one of the homes may have exacerbated the spread. On the day of the fire, there was high fire danger across much of the state. Gov. Tony Evers declared a State of Emergency due to the extreme risks.

MFD says three of the homes are a complete loss. The fourth home had significant damage but is still standing.

The Red Cross responded to the scene to help six people. A GoFundMe was launched for some of the victims of the fire.

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