Fire displaces 18 residents in north side Milwaukee apartment building

CREATED May 22, 2014 - UPDATED: May 22, 2014

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  • Image by Jonah Kaplan

  • Image by Jonah Kaplan

  • Image by Jonah Kaplan

MILWAUKEE -- Several families are homeless after their apartment complex near Capitol Drive and 19th Street went up in flames around 4 a.m. Thursday. 

Many tenants are alive because of neighbors who put their own safety on the line to make sure everyone got out.

"It was all the way on the cracks of the wall or whatever. And that's how I knew it was a fire,” recalls tenant Marquis Ashley. “I grabbed him. It was a fire on the floor or wherever. I woke everyone up and told them there was a fire."

His neighbor, James Cole, can’t express his gratitude enough.

“I got a little son to live for, and I’m here because of that," he said.

The Milwaukee Fire Department said they believe the fire started on first floor toward the front of the building.

One resident, Tameka Washington, ran out with her four kids.

“They were crying, and I had to rush them out of the house with no clothes on or nothing," recalls Washington.

Just a few hours earlier, she was wrapped in a blanket outside the apartment. It’s not herself, but her kids, she's worried about.

"They’re going to miss out on school today. All their clothes are gone. Where are we going to go right now? All those thoughts are kind of overwhelming," adds Washington.

The Red Cross is helping the families find a place to stay for a few days.The property manager tells us the smoke detectors never went off. No word on what caused the fire.

There were no injuries.