Neighbors call site of fatal West Allis duplex fire "a danger zone," so what is the city doing about it?

WEST ALLIS (WITI) -- Last year, two teenagers died in a house fire in West Allis. Now, a year later, neighbors say they're not only haunted by what happened, they're worried the scene of this tragedy has become a hazard.

"I'm afraid (my son) is going to get too close to it, slip and fall in it," Miranda Vanscoy said.

Vanscoy lives next door to the home that caught fire. Fire ripped through the West Allis duplex near 57th and Lapham early on Sunday morning, March 17th, 2013 -- taking the lives of 14-year-old Michael Gonzales and his friend, 14-year-old Isaiha Kobow. Two younger boys were able to escape the burning home.

"It's very sad," Vanscoy said.

When firefighters arrived at the scene on that Sunday morning one year ago, the duplex was fully engulfed.

A second floor ceiling collapsed a short time after a young child (age four) and a teenager (age 13) were removed from the building.

Fire officials called the actions of the 13-year-old boy, Joel Gonzales heroic. They say he carried his little brother to safety.

A final report released on this fire indicated there were no adults home at the time of the fire. That report lists the cause of the blaze as "undetermined."

"It took a very long time for them to tear it down, so you would come outside and smell this burnt house all the time and look at this every morning just reminding you of what happened," Vanscoy said.

Now more than a year-and-a-half after the blaze, the duplex's jagged foundation is still exposed, and it's the debris left behind that's concerning for neighbors.

"I don't want (my son) to go near that. It's very scary. He is very curious of it. He would throw his basketball in there and his toys. I heard there were homeless people trying to make a home down there. It draws a lot of attention and it just doesn`t look good. It just sucks having to see it every day because it takes me back to that night," Vanscoy said.

West Allis Mayor Dan Devine says a fence will be put into place until the duplex's demolition is in place.

"It's absolutely a concern. (The demolition process) always goes slower than you`d like to see, but as it stands today we have a contractor selected and the paperwork is with them to get returned to us.  The plan is to demo it within a couple of weeks, and return it to green space," Devine said.

After learning there is a plan to address the safety concerns, Vanscoy says some of her concern has been lifted.

"I feel a little better. No more worries of him at least going near the danger zone as I call it," Vanscoy said.

Devine says he agrees "the sooner the better" when it comes to taking care of the property. He says the city wants to keep things safe and reduce any liability -- saying the city has the funds, and the property should be aesthetically acceptable within the next couple of weeks.

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