Category Archives: Fire

School District Plans Prescribed Prairie Burn

The South Milwaukee School District is planning a prescribed burn for the prairie grass around its high school and middle school campuses later this month.

Applied Ecological Services will do the burn, weather permitting, March 28-April 1.

Check out the school district letter here.

And here is more information on the schools’ prairie, and images from the previous burn (including a few shown in this post). This is a story about the benefits of prescribed burns.


Filed under Fire, Schools, South Milwaukee

Man Injured In South Milwaukee House Fire

House fire Minnesota

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A man suffered minor injuries from a house fire Thursday night in South Milwaukee.

The fire at 1622 Minnesota Ave. was reported shortly after 9:30 p.m.

Firefighters responded quickly and found a man outside who had escaped through a window. He suffered minor injuries, including smoke inhalation and lacerations, and was taken to the hospital. He is expected to be OK.

There is significant damage to the interior of the house.

Thanks to all of our firefighters for their work tonight.


Filed under Fire, South Milwaukee

A Special Valentine’s Day Wish

Look what Divine Mercy students dropped off at the South Milwaukee Fire Department on Friday … happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

Thanks, kids.

Valentines cards

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Filed under Fire, Schools, South Milwaukee

New Firefighter Contract Approved

The city council has approved a new contract with the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1633.

The two-year deal — which begins Jan. 1, 2016, and ends Dec. 31, 2017 — includes 2% pay raises each year and a continued commitment by firefighters to pay the same toward their health insurance and pensions as all other employees do. The latter point is significant because it puts everyone on a level playing field, even though police and fire unions are exempted from Act 10 bargaining limitations.

The union has ratified the deal, and it replaces this contract.

The IAFF Local 1633 represents 21 South Milwaukee firefighters and paramedics, and I thank them for their work on this contract – another strong example of the type of collaboration that can happen among public employee unions and their employers.

And this is a partnership – our front-line firefighters and paramedics working with department and city leaders on matters that are truly life and death. We are only as good as our people when it comes to delivering our services, and we’re blessed to have some of the best in the SMFD.

Here is the statement from IAFF Local 1633 President Kurt Egner …

The Firefighters of Local 1633 are proud to serve the citizens of South Milwaukee. The Union values its partnership with the City and we are pleased to have participated in the smooth negotiation process that resulted in what we believe to be a reasonable agreement for both parties.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

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Filed under City Council, Fire, South Milwaukee

Two Families Displaced In House Fire


From the South Milwaukee Fire Department Facebook page

At 5:05 this morning, SMFD rec’d a call for smoke in the upper unit of a two-story duplex at 1431 Michigan Ave. Upon arrival, units encountered a fire burning in the attic and a Full Still response requested (Oak Creek & Cudahy). The fire was quickly extinguished and extensive overhaul ensued to ensure the fire didn’t extend to more of the attic area under the blown-in insulation. Both mutual aid departments were cancelled. No injuries were reported. Two families were displaced, but declined assistance from the American Red Cross.

Please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers.

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Evacuation After Car Crashes Into Home, Ruptures Gas Meter


Update: Check out coverage from Fox 6 and CBS 58. And be sure to like my Facebook page for more timely updates. I initially posted something on this on Facebook shortly after it happened.

From the South Milwaukee Fire Department …

At approximately 5 PM this evening, SMFD responded to a report of a motor vehicle crash with injuries involving two vehicles. One of the vehicles ended up striking the front of a house and its gas meter. The area was evacuated since the flow of gas could not be stopped as the gas line was severed below the valve. WE Energies had to come in and dig up the gas main to clamp off the flow of gas. One patient was transported to the hospital for evaluation.

And from the South Milwaukee Police Department …

On 11-9-15 at 1653 hours numerous 911 callers reported a vehicle had crashed into the front of a house in the 800 block of Milwaukee Avenue in South Milwaukee.  The vehicle had caused the gas line to break at the house and people in that area were evacuated.  The accident was a two car accident and it appears the driver of the vehicle that struck the house accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the break.  The driver of the vehicle that struck the house had only minor injuries and was transported to the hospital for treatment.  Nobody else was injured.  The gas was shut off and people were allowed to go back in their homes after 90 minutes. 

Scary stuff, but deep thanks go out to all of the first responders from across the area for their quick action.

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Filed under Fire, Police, South Milwaukee

Milwaukee Avenue Fire One Of Three In The South Shore Since Thursday

Downtown fire 1 Downtown fire 2

Downtown fire 3

It was a busy Saturday for area fire departments, including a blaze in downtown South Milwaukee tonight.

More on the South Milwaukee fire from Fire Chief Joe Knitter …

At approximately 5:23 this evening, SMFD units responded to a report of flames coming from the roof of a building at 10th & Milwaukee near Parkway Floral.  As units exited the station, they could see a column of smoke rising into the sky from the area.  A Working Still response was requested by Capt. Sibley, bringing in our mutual aid neighbors.  Upon arrival of SMFD units, flames and heavy smoke could be seen coming from the roof area.  An interior size up showed fire involving the siding materials and wood framing of an light/air shaft located between the west wall of the building at 1003 Milwaukee Avenue and the east wall of the building that houses the Board Game Barrister. Hoselines were stretched into the apartment that the shaft served and the fire was extinguished.  A hoseline was also taken to the roof via our aerial ladder to extinguish some areas where the fire had extended.  Once again, our crews did an excellent job deploying the hoselines and controlling/extinguishing the fire in a very short time.  The light/air shaft was heavily damaged with moderate damage to the adjoining apartment and the attic area directly about the involved apartment.  Two families were displaced and the Red Cross was notified for their services.  The fire is currently under investigation. No injuries were reported.

And more on an Oak Creek fire early Saturday morning …

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At 4:13 this morning, SMFD Truck 1671 and Chief 16 responded to the City of Oak Creek for a report of a fire in a residential building. OCFD units encountered significant fire involvement of the attic of the building upon their arrival and, after assuring that all occupants were accounted for, assumed a defensive fire attack. Truck 1671 was positioned on the C/D corner and provided their aerial stream and eventually went to the interior to conduct a thorough search and extinguish hot spots. The fire was escalated to a MABAS Box Alarm bringing in units from throughout Milwaukee County. No injuries were reported. The cause is under investigation.

There was also an apartment fire in Cudahy on Friday.

Thank you to our firefighters for their 24/7 commitment to keeping us safe … and please keep the families displaced by these fires in your thoughts and prayers.

For more photos — and for more regular and timely updates on news from around the area — be sure to like my mayoral Facebook page. I often update Facebook first. 

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Filed under Cudahy, Fire, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee

Garbage, Fence Fire Reported Sunday Night; Cause Appears Accidental

From South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joe Knitter …
At approximately 11:15 last night, SMFD responded to a report of a garage fire in the 2300 Blk. of 9th Avenue.  While responding, SMPD arrived on scene and confirmed the fire at which time SMFD requested assistance from our neighboring departments.  Arriving SMFD units found a fire involving several garbage and recycling carts and a privacy fence extending to an adjoining shed and the house directly north of the fire property.  Due to the concrete block construction of the garage, damage was minimal. Witness statements were taken and the cause appears to be accidental.  No injuries were reported.


Filed under Fire, South Milwaukee

Responding To The Saloon Fire In Oak Creek


From South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joe Knitter …

At approximate 6:38PM this evening (July 4), the SMFD ladder truck and I responded to a report of flames and smoke coming from The Saloon at 120 East Rawson Avenue in Oak Creek.  Upon their arrival, OCFD units encountered a well-involved fire in the main bar area and attic of the structure.  SMFD truck 1671 was assigned to set up for possible defensive operations from the Howell Avenue side and I was assigned the Operations Chief role, coordinating fireground operations alongside the OCFD Battalion Chief who was in Command. The building suffered extensive damage and the cause is still under investigation by OCFD and OCPD.

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Filed under Fire, Oak Creek, South Milwaukee

Their Job: Saving Lives



It was an honor honoring our local firefighters and emergency medical services personnel on Tuesday night, as part of National Emergency Medical Services Week.

Making the city council meeting extra special: We welcomed back two of the people saved by our personnel as we honored them with letters of commendation. Really, really cool.

See their stories and the proclamation here … and congratulations to all of the award winners. Well done.

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Filed under City Services, Fire, South Milwaukee

Looking Back On A Busy Year For The South Milwaukee Fire Department

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The South Milwaukee Fire Department has published its 2014 annual report, and it details a busy, and tragic, year.

See the full report here.

From South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joe Knitter …

This report is but a brief snapshot of the tremendous amount of hard work put forth by the members of your fire department who continue to demonstrate their commitment to providing an exceptionally high level of service and standard of coverage with the limited resources at hand.

Our call volume increased slightly during 2014 with a minor uptick in the number of fire calls we responded to. While the nationwide trend is a decrease in fire calls, it seems that this call for service follows a cyclical trend in our area. Our department requested mutual aid from our neighbors for 12 working structure fires in 2014. Dollar loss from these fires nearly doubled when compared to 2013, primarily due to the increase in the number of fires and the advanced stage of several of them upon our arrival. Unfortunately, the fire department experienced its second fire fatality in a span of three months (December, ’13-February, ’14) in a fire that occurred on February 27th in a single-family home that claimed the life of a 56-year old female. Prior to this fire and the previous fire that occurred in December of 2013, the South Milwaukee Fire Department went for over ten years without a fatal fire.

One area of improvement that I am proud to highlight is the increase in the number of community members impacted by our fire prevention/community outreach efforts. As you will see on Page 12, we have realized an 8% increase in the number of K-4/5 and 1st grade students who participated in our fire safety education program, a 20% increase in the number of 5th graders who attended our 5th Grade Fire Safety Program, and a 60% increase in the number of community members that participated in a fire extinguisher training program. While predicting how many fires or injuries these initiatives prevented is nearly impossible, our goal of delivering education to the community can only become more effective as we interact with more citizens.

In closing, the South Milwaukee Fire Department will continue to answer the call 24/7/365 and maintain its high level of service delivery as we respond to the needs of the community as an all-hazard, all-risk department. Our focus will remain on community involvement, risk reduction, fire prevention, public education, and delivering timely, professional, effective, and efficient service. The members of the South Milwaukee Fire Department and I would like to thank Mayor Erik Brooks, the members of the Common Council and Police and Fire Commission, and our citizens for all their hard work and continued support.

Right back at you, chief. Thanks to you and all of our firefighters for your hard work and dedication to keeping us safe.

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No One Hurt In Bedroom Fire


From the South Milwaukee Fire Department …

At approximately 3:40PM this afternoon, SMFD responded to a 9-1-1 report of a comforter on fire at 401 Williams Avenue.  Upon arrival of SMFD units, light smoke was seen coming out of the front door and the occupants were waiting outside.  When crews entered the house, they found a fire consuming the comforters, pillows, and mattress in a rear bedroom,  The fire was quickly extinguished, but not before extensive heat and smoke damage affected the involved bedroom and moderate smoke filled the entire house. The fire is currently under investigation.  No one was injured in the fire.

Please keep the residents of this property in your prayers.

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No One Hurt In South Milwaukee Duplex Fire

Maple Fire Revised

From the South Milwaukee Fire Department … please keep these residents in your prayers.

At approximately 4:40PM this afternoon, SMFD responded to a 9-1-1 call reporting a fire in the lower unit of a duplex at 1821 Maple Street.  Arriving SMFD units forced entry into the lower unit and encountered heavy smoke causing zero visibility conditions and a fire burning in the kitchen and extending down a hallway.  Crews extinguished the fire but not before extensive heat and smoke damage occurred on the first floor.  The fire was discovered by the upstairs tenant whose smoke alarm is interconnected with the one in the lower unit.  Once his detector sounded, he went to investigate and saw flames in the kitchen of the lower unit through the front window.  No one was home in the lower unit at the time of the fire.  Damaged was extensive to the first floor with moderate smoke damage to the 2nd floor.  Thankfully, the 2nd floor tenant took the time to close his door when leaving.  No injuries were reported.  The cause of the fire is currently under investigation and the American Red Cross has been requested to the scene to assist the families.

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No One Hurt In Overnight South Milwaukee House Fire

Chestnut fireDamage was extensive, but thankfully no one was hurt in an overnight fire at 1512 Chestnut Ave. Details from South Milwaukee Fire Chief Joe Knitter …

At approximately 20 minutes after midnight this morning, SMPD Dispatch received a 9-1-1 call from a passerby reporting fire coming through the roof of a house near the intersection of 15th & Chestnut.  SMPD Officer Hoeppner was first to arrive on scene and confirmed the address of 1512 Chestnut Street and reported a well-involved fire.  This information was relayed to SMFD and the level of alarm was immediately upgraded to a Working Still, which brings in our mutual aid neighbors. 

Not knowing if there was anyone at home, Officer Hoeppner forced entry into the house through the front door and was able to check the first floor and did not locate any occupants.  He did, however, remove a dog from a kennel in the kitchen and take it from the house.  SMFD units arrived on scene and encountered a large volume of fire already venting from the rear area of the roof.  The initial attack on the fire was from the interior on the second floor, however, attack crews were making little progress due to a large portion of the roof already being burned away and many areas that were difficult to access.  The attack line was withdrawn momentarily while ladders were brought into the interior and areas of fire were then darkened down.  Lines were redeployed to the interior and an extensive overhaul operation ensued. A MABAS Box Alarm was requested due to the cold temperatures and extent of the operation, bringing in our next level of mutual aid response. 

No injuries were reported.  Damage to the house is extensive.  The sole occupant of the house was not home at the time of fire, which remains under investigation at this time.

Please keep the occupant of this home in your prayers, and join me in thanking our firefighters and police officers for their work.

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Filed under Fire, South Milwaukee

Excavator Over A Cliff? Firefighters Deal With The Cold

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Thanks again to all of our public safety workers. They never know what the next call will bring.

From the fire chief …

Earlier today, SMFD units assisted the Oak Creek Fire Department at the scene of a mobile home fire in the area of 27th & College Avenue’s. Upon returning to the station from that fire, personnel were closely monitoring radio traffic from the Oak Creek Fire Department who were now responding to a report of a large excavator that was driven over the lake bank and ended up in Lake Michigan, approximately 25’ from the shore. The lake bank at the location is approximately 200’ high and very inaccessible because of brush and construction debris. Hearing that OCFD had no way to conduct a search of the cab of the excavator to determine if there were any occupants, SMFD offered up the services of their inflatable rescue raft and personnel to perform the search. Our larger rescue boat is currently in storage for the winter and unavailable. Oak Creek accepted the offer and our inflatable raft was launched from the South Milwaukee Yacht Club with two personnel in cold water suits on board. Upon arriving at the scene, the crew in the rescue raft conducted a cursory search of the machine from the boat and then beached the boat in order to conduct a more in-depth search of the cab and surrounding shoreline area. All searches turned up negative.

 Once again, the crew from SMFD did an outstanding job of maintaining their personal safety while completing their mission under very difficult conditions. The air temperature at the time of the incident was 18 degrees with winds out of the North at 10-15mph resulting in wind chills near 5 degrees. In addition, the Lake Michigan water temperature is approximately 40 degrees with 3’-5’ waves.

More details on the department’s Facebook page.

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