11 people displaced after fire in apartment building

MILWAUKEE -- 11 people were displaced Tuesday after a fire broke out at an apartment complex near 39th and Greenfield. The cold weather posed some risks for both firefighters and residents, but things could have been much worse if it weren't for one resident's quick actions.

Fred Steves saw smoke on the first floor of his apartment complex just before 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, and he quickly took action. "I came downstairs and saw smoke coming from my neighbor's apartment, so I punched out the window, and then I shot the fire extinguisher, and as soon as I put it out, it seemed like someone was in there with a lighter fluid cannon and it would light back up," Steves said.

Steves worked to try to contain the blaze, while 10 of his neighbors, including Nyree Raymond and her son, safely made it out of the building. "He helped save our life. He was throwing plenty of water, waiting for the fire department to get here and take care of the fire," Raymond said.

Milwaukee Fire Department officials were able to put out the fire within half an hour. They say the fire was contained to one unit, but the smoke and water damage was too widespread to allow anyone inside. "Because we shut the gas and the electricity off to the building, we're not going to be able to put anybody in there, due to the cold," Milwaukee Deputy Fire Chief Jack Christianson said.

Christianson said the cold weather made fighting this fire tough. "Once we start working with water, it freezes. In this case, it froze very quickly, so we tried to get some salt on that as quickly as we could, to eliminate that," Christianson said.

A Milwaukee County Transit System bus, along with the Red Cross responded to the scene to assist the displaced residents, some of whom left the building with only the clothes on their backs.

Officials say this fire is under investigation. They say three people had to be treated for minor smoke-related injuries.