91-year-old woman dies after two alarm house fire

ELM GROVE— Elm Grove police say 91-year-old Barbara Gardner has died after a two alarm fire at her home on Wisconsin Avenue Sunday. Gardner was being treated at St. Mary's Burn Center, after initally being transported to Froedtert.

Officials say the fire occurred just before 12:30 p.m. Sunday, and say Gardner called 911 to report the fire. When fire officials arrived on the scene, they made several attempts to enter the home, but were unsuccessful, due to the progression of the smoke and fire. Eventually fire crews were able to rescue Gardner from the first floor of the home, and she was taken to the hospital.

Officials say it appears Gardner lived in the home alone, and there were no injuries to other citizens or fire personnel. It is unknown whether the home had working smoke detectors.

Kelly Pliss describes Gardner as a senior, living independently, and says she uses a walker when getting her mail. "She was just a delightful elegant lady. We only met at the mailboxes once in a while. It just makes me sick to think something might have happened to her. We actually saw her come out on the stretcher and into the ambulance, and she looked like she was burned," Pliss said.

Greta Fayle says she saw the blaze from across the street. "The right side of the house, the west side, was engulfed in huge flames, shooting to the sky," Fayle said.

Firefighters from 14 agencies across the area were called in to suppress the smoke and flames. The fire was hot enough to peel away shingles from the roof, and 42,000 gallons of water were used to smother the heat. The fire is still under investigation, and the State Fire Marshal has been called in to assist with the investigation. Fire officials say the home is a total loss, with early estimates indicating a structural loss of nearly $135,000.

Investigators from the Elm Grove Police Department, the Elm Grove Fire Department and State Fire Marshals were on the scene Monday morning collecting evidence. Officials have determined that the source of the fire was located in a west side sun room of the home, and investigators have ruled out any criminal implications. The fire scene has been released to insurance investigators to determine a cause.