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State investigators work to determine cause of South Milwaukee fire

SOUTH MILWAUKEE -- A burned out shell is all that's left of a South Milwaukee house following a massive fire. State investigators are combing over the house to find out just what sparked the massive fire.

South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joseph Knitter calls this fire one of the most significant fires he's seen in his 30 years with the department.

State investigators are working to determine why the fire was so large and spread so fast. They're looking for things like combustible materials, and why crews were called to the scene so late.

Chief Knitter wouldn't say if this fire is suspicious.

South Milwaukee firefighters responded to house fire 34 seconds after noticing smoke from the home located down the street from a fire house.

Two adults and three children safely escaped the burning home.

Samuel Martin lives in the home with his sister and three foster teenage boys; two 17 year-olds and one 16 year old.

\"My 17 year-old son was coming downstairs for dinner and he stated that the couch was on fire in our front porch,\" said Martin.

He said he was going to bring out the fire extinguisher but smoke quickly flooded the home. The family escaped through the back door.

Martin believes it was arson.

\"I think it is. I don't know how a couch just got on  fire with nobody out there,\" said Martin.

He said tensions have been high in his neighborhood.

\"There been racial problems with the neighbor. She's been calling the police on the neighbors for every little thing,\" said Martin.

The property owner said the home was suppose to be a fresh start for the three foster kids.

\"He is a real good dad to them, good kids. Its nice to see them enjoying where they live. They use to live in a not nice area,\" said Derrick Regalia. He said the kids never caused them any trouble.

The Department of Children and Family Services released this statement :

\"The Department is unable to comment about a specific case involving foster youth. However, in a situation like the one that you are describing where a foster family has been displaced from their home, many things would need to be taken into consideration when deciding if a child/children would be placed in a temporary setting or be able to remain with their foster family.  One important factor would be whether or not the family could continue to care for the children and provide proper shelter, while another would be the estimated length of time that the family would be displaced from their home. In making the determination the Department would always try consider what course of action would provide for the safety of the child/children while also taking into consideration the trauma that the child/children have already experienced and the additional trauma that could result from another foster care placement.\"

\"I'm going to keep them with me, that's my intention,\" said Martin.

This isn't the first time Martin has had to deal with tragedy. His wife died from cancer a few years ago. He said she was the one who encouraged them to become foster parents.

He did not have renters insurance.

For information on how to help the family displaced by this fire contact this e-mail address - Martin.samuel87@yahoo.com



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