MFD: Hoarding conditions played a role in fatal house fire near 15th and Oklahoma

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) --- The Milwaukee Fire Department said hoarding conditions played a role in a fatal house fire on Saturday, March 20.

Officials say 25-year-old Rafita Garcia, who was autistic, died as a result of the fire near 15th Place and Oklahoma around 8:30 a.m. The fire occurred in the upper unit of the residence. 

According to the fire department, firefighters' efforts to save the victim were described as "herculean" due to the hoarding in the home.

A family friend says Garcia's mother is taking the loss especially hard.

"She did everything -- everything she did was for him, she would take care of him everyday, like feed him and everything," said family friend Baltazar Salgaud.

MFD determined there were no working smoke alarms on the property, according to Alderman Scott Spiker.

"Smoke alarms are proven to save lives, and can provide those crucial extra seconds needed to make sure everyone can evacuate a building quickly and safely," Spiker said in a statement. "I would implore residents of my district, and all of Milwaukee, to take a few seconds to check your smoke alarms to make sure they are working properly."

Members of MFD were in the neighborhood handing out free smoke alarms Monday, March 22.

Residents can request a smoke alarm to be delivered and installed for free by calling the MFD using the Smoke Alarm Hotline at 414-286-8980.

"I want to thank the MFD for their efforts in responding to this incident, and for their diligence in providing community outreach across the city," Spiker said. "Their work helps make our community a safer place." 

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