Deadly Oconomowoc fire victim identified
OCONOMOWOC - A 45-year-old woman from Oconomowoc was killed in a fire there over the weekend.
The body of Sharon Phillips, 45, was found hours after the fire. She lived in an apartment above a realty office in the now-damaged building.
"She had come to the east side of the building toward the window area where another person had been taken out of," explained Oconomowoc Public Safety Director David Beguhn in an interview with Newsradio 620 WTMJ's Jay Sorgi.
"She had gone back inside the apartment. Two firefighters went into the apartment trying to locate her. During that time, they ran out of air, and they themselves were overcome by smoke. They had to be pulled out by firefighters."
Investigators were set Monday morning to assess damage from the fire which left four firefighters injured and about 20 people homeless.
"One lieutenant was transferred to Columbia St. Mary's," Beguhn told Sorgi.
"He was being treated for smoke inhalation. A second firefighter from Oconomowoc. He had minor burns on his face and also smoke inhalation. He was treated and released."
The people who were displaced from the scene may be able to return to their homes Monday night.
"What our hope is, is to wrap up the investigation around the scene, restore the electricity and the gas today to that block, and hopefully we can get them back into their apartments tonight," said Beguhn.
North Main Street was still closed Monday morning around the fire scene. Wisconsin Avenue was opened, but with a detour.
Firefighters worked on putting out hotspots until late Sunday afternoon. The fire broke out just after 12:30 p.m.
Mark Lewis and his wife were driving near the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Main Street when they saw thick black smoke coming from a building. They drove around back when they noticed flames coming from a bush on the back of this building. They were shocked when they witnessed those flames shoot up and spread.
"I called 911 right away and I sent my wife to go knock on doors," said Mark Lewis. "But I couldn't get to the fire escape because there were already flames."
Beguhn told TODAY'S TMJ4, "There's a stairway in the back that was fully engulfed, so they tried to make an entrance on the second floor with ladders. They were able to locate people but they weren't able to get everyone out of the apartment.."
He later told Sorgi, "The citizens that responded...they did a fantastic job at the scene. They were incredible...the woman who did survive, she owes her life to the citizens who responded.
Witnesses say two people escaped out of the front two windows after a passerby smashed a window and helped pull them out. Their conditions are unknown.
Stapleton Realty is on the ground floor. The second floor has apartments.
Firefighters had to move the fire line out because they were concerned about the building collapsing.
The fire chief was also trying to keep flames from spreading to the two apartments next door and having a hard time doing that.
Downtown Oconomowoc is small and many of the buildings are old and constructed in the late 1800s.