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Early morning house fire in Milwaukee kills woman

MILWAUKEE -- Sobbing and hugs mixed with disbelief in a north side Milwaukee neighborhood Saturday morning after a house fire killed a woman.

\"I've been crying all morning,\" neighbor Charles Lucas said.  \"I'm pretty much cried out.\"

Lucas' daughter woke him up around 3:40 a.m.., telling him fire was shooting through her  bedroom window in their home near 2nd and Townsend Streets.  Lucas called 9-1-1 and ran outside to help.

\"I couldn't get through the front door because the door was blazing red,\" Lucas said.  \"I didn't even try to bother with the door because I know if I would've opened up the door I would've lost my life.\"

Lucas saw people breaking through windows to escape.  Two adults were injured and taken to the hospital, but one woman -- who family members identified as 46-year-old Tammy Steel -- couldn't get out.

\"It's real, you know?  I just dropped her off here last night,\" Steel's brother-in-law Donald Anthony said.

Anthony heard about the fire Saturday morning and came with family to comfort them.   They say Steel had moved here from Chicago, helping drug and alcohol addicts recover in the home. 

\"She was trying to get one of the clients to the front,\" sister-in-law Tammy Spivey said.  \"He was an elderly man and she was trying to get him to the  front of the house.  That's why I hear she collapsed.\"

The Milwaukee Fire Department found two smoke detectors inside, but they weren't working.  One man who was inside the house and asked not to be identified says he heard the smoke alarms going off, but the fire department stands by their statement the alarms were not working when they arrived. 

Investigators still don't know what caused the fire.   Firefighters estimate the fire caused more  than $100,000 in damage.  But for Tammy Steel's family, her life matters most.

\"That's what kind of person she really was,\" Spivey said.  \"She was a caring person.  Everybody loved her.\"

\"A family that prays together stays together,\" Anthony said.  \"So, this is a big loss.\"

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