Man whose body was found in burned home one day after fire is identified

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office has identified a man whose body was found in a home near 26th and Locust, one day after a fire occurred there.

The deceased is identified as 55-year-old Billy Bowen. His death has been ruled an accident. The final cause of death in this case has been ruled "inhalation of soot and products of combustion."

House fire near 26th and Locust

Bowen's body was found in the upstairs area of a home that had been involved in a house fire on Friday, March 4th. The body was found on Saturday afternoon, March 5th, under a pile of debris.

"You went to sleep and someone was still up there, undiscovered," Nina Tyler, a neighbor said.

The fire broke out just before noon on Friday, March 4th at the home near 26th and Locust.

A 100-year-old woman was pulled from the burning home by neighbors. She was taken to the hospital for treatment of burns.

House fire near 26th and Locust

"A lot of flames. Heard a lot of the neighbors outside screaming for help," Tyler said.

The smoke was thick and the flames were intense. Two neighbors ran into the home in an effort to rescue the 100-year-old woman, a woman who relies on a wheelchair.

The neighbors kicked in the door and dragged the woman out of the home after finding her face down on the stairs, according to a medical examiner's report.

"I just heard 'we can't let he die. We gotta go in.' He wrapped his coat around his face. He kind of hesitated and they just ran in," Tyler said.

House fire near 26th and Locust

A few moments later, the two neighbors came out carrying the woman -- burned but alive.

Fire crews were able to bring the fire under control as of 12:35 p.m., and the last Milwaukee Fire Department crew left the scene at 2:17 p.m.

It is believed the fire started on a stove in the kitchen. According to a medical examiner's report in this case, family members had removed the handles from the stove in order to prevent the elderly woman from cooking, but at the time of the fire, one of the burners was found to have been turned on. It's unclear who was doing the cooking.

The fire burned out the staircase leading to the second floor -- spreading to the eaves and roof of the home, which ignited the upstairs, the medical examiner's report says.

It was not determined whether there were smoke detectors in the home.

Following the fire, there was extensive fire damage to the exterior of the home. The second floor was only accessible via a ladder as the stairwell was burned out.

Crews had apparently gone through the upstairs, but didn't see Bowen on Friday, according to the medical examiner's report.

Officials with the Milwaukee Fire Department said they were contacted on Saturday afternoon by the family of the woman who suffered burns, inquiring about a missing family member that also lived at the home -- the woman's grandson, who lived with her at the home.

Neighbors soon noticed firefighters back in the area.

House fire near 26th and Locust

"They were taking off the boards," Tyler said.

Police and fire officials returned to the boarded up home, made entry and discovered a man’s body under a pile of debris.

House fire near 26th and Locust

"They said they found him upstairs. They said he blended in with the house under the burned debris," Tyler said.

Neighbors say the man was the elderly woman's caretaker. Neighbors are wondering how something like this could happen.

The man’s death is now being investigated by the Milwaukee Police Department and the Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s Office.

The Milwaukee Fire Department is also conducting an internal investigation to ensure that standard operating procedures and guidelines were followed.

House fire near 26th and Locust