MPD investigating fatal 2-alarm fire near 13th and Cleveland

NOW: MPD investigating fatal 2-alarm fire near 13th and Cleveland

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Police and fire officials continue to investigate after fire at an apartment complex on the city's south side left one person dead and sent another to hospital.

The fire happened just before 1 a.m. on Dec. 21 near S. 13th St. and W. Cleveland Ave. Milwaukee Fire Department officials said they arrived minutes later to a scene of confusion.

"When [firefighters] got there it was pretty chaotic, a lot of fire, a lot of people self-evacuating at the time," MFD Chief of Operations Russell Rivard told reporters at a media availability.

Officials said they encountered several wheelchair-bound residents who needed help evacuating the building which holds about 37 units.

The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner's Office identified the person who died as a 45-year-old man who died of apparent smoke inhalation. His wife was transported to St. Mary's Hospital with some burns.

An initial report from the ME's office said police officers investigating the scene came across a space heater or humidifier that may have been the cause of the fire. The initial report also mentioned "hoarder-like" conditions in the apartment where there were many combustible items on the floor near the device.

Firefighters said it is an important reminder to be safe with those machines, especially during the winter months.

"[Make sure they are] plugged into an electrical outlet that can handle the amount of wattage that it takes to run it, that you're not using extension cords and that there's no clutter around it," Rivard said. "Space heaters are great if they're used correctly, if not it can be catastrophic."

Rivard said police and fire officials continue to investigate the exact cause of the fire.

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