NEW HOLSTEIN - An early morning apartment fire claims the life of a 42-year-old New Holstein woman, and leaves several others searching for a place to stay.
The blaze raged all morning.
It also sent four other people to the hospital
It happened in the downtown area of New Holstein. That's in Calumet County.
It was a multi-unit apartment building on Railroad Street near Wisconsin Avenue.
Neighbors described hallways and apartments thick with smoke.
"It's like being in a big oven, you can't see two inches in front of you," said Ronald Zimmerman, one of the tenants.
Sirens sounded around 6:45 Friday morning as smoke billowed out of the New Holstein apartment building.
It sent people in town frantically searching for their loved ones.
"I just got up really fast and Gary started calling the hospital and they won't let us know anything right now. I just want to know if they all got out," said Dawn Zachow, looking for her brother-in-law.
Four people got out with the help from a fast first responder.
"The first firefighter that showed up ran down the street and got a ladder. Otherwise, I was going to jump," said Zimmerman.
Zimmerman escaped the flames from his upper-level apartment. Even though he lost his pet cat, his wallet and his cell phone, Zimmerman says he's lucky to be alive.
"I was sleeping. I heard pounding on my door. I believe the one that's deceased is the one, I was with her for awhile and there I lost her in the smoke, so I had to break my window out, and that's the last I heard of her," said Zimmerman.
New Holstein police say 42-year-old Nicole Masucci never made out of the building. Her neighbors say they did, because of her help.
"A very good friend of mine," Zimmerman described. "She's a hero."
Fire crews from several nearby agencies worked into the afternoon to extinguish the fire.
"The challenge is the roof fell in and we're having trouble. It's between the ceiling and the roof right now and we'll be pulling the roof off here shortly,' said New Holstein Fire Chief Dennis Mayer.
Police say the fire started in the kitchen of a lower-level apartment on or near a stove. They don't believe the fire was intentionally set.
Authorities say the four other victims treated at the hospital have been released.
The Red Cross is helping out those who lived in the building.
Officials say the building was originally a bar and boarding house before being converted into an apartment building. They did not say how many apartment units were in the building.
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