Toddler dead, two hurt in Milwaukee apartment fire

MILWAUKEE -- A one-year-old girl is dead and two others are injured after an overnight apartment fire near Milwaukee's north side. The Milwaukee Fire Department says the two-alarm fire broke out at a 12-unit apartment building near Martin Luther King Drive and Wright Street shortly before 1 a.m. Monday.

When firefighters arrived on the scene, they found a fully-involved fire in an apartment unit on the first floor. Officials say flames were shooting out of the front and side windows of the apartment unit. Authorities say the fire was under control within minutes and was contained to the one unit alone.

Fire officials say the father was outside the building yelling that his baby was trapped inside. When crews searched the building, they found the one-year-old baby in her crib inside the bedroom. The baby girl was pronounced dead at the scene. Police say the girl's father sustained superficial burns trying to rescue his daughter and was transported to an area hospital. One firefighter also received minor injuries.

"We had to knock the fire down before we could get entry.  We got into the apartment, got into the fire room and unfortunately, it was too late for the child to be rescued," Battalion Chief Christopher Snyder said.

"All I could say is my heart goes out to that family because the first thing I did was I broke down.  When we came back and asked if everybody get out safely, the firefighter shook his head," Barbara Kelly, whose daughter lived in the building and was able to escape unharmed said. "They had to come out the side window, putting my grandson outside the house."

Leticia Dudley lives on the third floor of the building, and says her brother woke her up and got her out. "By the time I got to the hallway, it was just completely cloudy. I could hardly see anything. I could hardly breathe. I didn't have anything over my face and I'm trying to cover my son's face because he has asthma," Dudley said.

Once Dudley reached the sidewalk, she says she saw the distraught father, screaming for his daughter. "He's just like, 'somebody give me the keys to my apartment - I'm going to go back in. My baby! My baby!' That's when I broke down because that could've been me and my son. I've got a two-year-old," Dudley said.

Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing confirmed that building maintenance checked the apartments last week, and that included a smoke-alarm check, but the fire department is still trying to figure out what happened with the alarms in the apartment where fire claimed the baby's life. Chief Rohlfing says although the detectors were in a good spot - right outside the two bedrooms - it's possible the fire destroyed the alarms before the family woke up.

Firefighters handed out smoke alarms in the area where Monday's early morning fire occurred through the FOCUS program - Firefighters Giving Out New Smoke Alarms.

The State Fire Marshal was called to the scene. Officials say the cause of the fire remains under investigation, however they don't believe it to be suspicious.

This is the city's first fire death in 2012. Last year, there were no fatal fires involving children.