3-alarm fire breaks out in two-story building near 56th & North

MILWAUKEE -- An overnight three-alarm fire destroyed a popular north side business and several apartments near 56th and North Avenue in Milwaukee early Wednesday morning.

Fire crews spent several hours trying to contain the blaze. Officials say the fire started in the basement around 2:30 Wednesday morning, and quickly escalated to three alarms.

A resident who lived downstairs, and six others living on the second floor were able to make it out of the building safely, although one was treated for smoke inhalation.

The popular business on the first floor, Air It Up Airbrushing was unrecognizable after the fire. "That shop has been there for many, many years," one neighbor said.

For several hours, close to 75 firefighters worked hard to contain the flames. "The fire had already burned through the floor. It was in the walls. It was a well-developed fire. At one point in time, we were throwing about 6,500 to 7,000 gallons per minute onto the building," Milwaukee Battalion Fire Chief Dan Lipski said.

One firefighter sustained a shoulder injury while battling the blaze.

It wasn't until late morning when fire crews used a backhoe to tear apart the building and fully extinguish the fire. The popular business on the first floor was not able to be saved. "When someone dies, and people lose their loved ones, that's where most people go to get t-shirts and stuff made. It's a terrible loss. The whole community will be affected," Stephanie Thompson said.

Fire crews remained on the scene through most of Wednesday, and officials say the entire building is a total loss. North Avenue from 55th to 57th streets was closed for much of Wednesday as crews worked the scene.

The cause of this fire remains under investigation.