Family devastated after losing father who survived COVID, stroke to southside house fire

NOW: Family devastated after losing father who survived COVID, stroke to southside house fire

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A southside Milwaukee family is devastated after a fire earlier this week claimed their dad's life and destroyed the family home.

Michelle Morales says her father was well-known throughout this neighborhood. She doesn't understand how after surviving COVID and a stroke, a house fire killed her father.

"It's like a nightmare that you just want to wake up from," said Morales.

Michelle Morales was at her home when her mother called from a hospital bed saying the family house was on fire with her father and brother still there.

He woke up from the smell of the fire, it was already late, he came out his room and he couldn't see," said Morales.

Morales said her brother called out to their father, Martin Rodriguez, but got no answer. Overwhelmed by smoke, her brother had to jump out a second story window. Their father didn't get out.

"After COVID, he wasn't the same anymore, he was basically paralyzed on half of his body," said Morales.

Morales said Rodriguez suffered a stroke after surviving COVID. It was hard for him, so used to helping others at his job at Patrick Cudahy.

"He would stop working on his line to go fix something else in a different department," said Morales.

Or in the neighborhood fixing cars.

"Don't go pay a mechanic, I can take of it, let's see what's going on," said Morales.

"It is an absolutely brutal thing to have to go through," said Acting Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski.

He said the department is offering its prayers to families of four five victims across the city. He begs the community to take safety precautions.

"Ensure they have a working smoke alarm," said Lipski.

Morales is unsure where to turn for help. The funeral home is donating a casket. But when she looks at the family, all those memories have gone up in smoke.

"The fire took off every memory we had in that house," said Morales.

The Milwaukee Fire Department will install free smoke detectors to anyone in the city that needs them.

The department can be reached at (414) 286-8980.

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