Fire forces students to seek new shelter

Tim Horneman

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When walking toward the house at 2023 W. Michigan St., it is clear that something is amiss.

A clock radio sits outside the house, near a leather upholstered chair. Between 2023 and 2017 W. Michigan St. is a 30-foot long, 3-foot deep pile of charred wood, boxsprings, mattresses and other materials. Tarps cover many portions of both buildings. Siding has melted off nearly all of one side of 2017, revealing the brick behind it. Parts are still attached, like spaghetti that is thrown against a wall. Although the fire has long been out, a slight smell of smoke is still present.

Both 2017 and 2023 were badly burned in a fire last week, and the cleanup of the houses has begun. Residents of 2023 spent much of Thursday cleaning up because they were told to remove their belongings before repairs started.

Inside, one half o 2023 is totaled, charred badly by the fire. Broken glass and ash are strewn about, covering the floor. Burned wood, not unlike the remnants of a campfire, lays in unorganized piles in several parts of many rooms. Upstairs, a sign on the bathroom door, placed there before the fire, reads “Bathroom Out of Order: Plumbing Repairs.” The bathtub is completely full of burned materials, as is the sink. Two other rooms are badly damaged, with soot and wood surrounding stereos, vacuums and other equipment that appear ruined.

The other side is relatively untouched. A fish tank is still plugged in and working, with the fish inside still alive. Food and drink are all over the kitchen and dining areas, but nothing seems too far out of the ordinary. Posters of the rock band Korn still litter the walls in a bedroom. The bedrooms that are not burned are a little messy, indicating that this is a house for college students. By now, most of their belongings have been removed.

The cold weather has spread into the house, as windows have been blown out by the fire and the heating to the house had to be turned off.

Kevin Anschutz, a junior at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, was the only one of five roommates to be at the house when it caught fire.

“I was downstairs watching TV,” he said. “I went up to get some stuff, and when I came down, one of the next door neighbors knocks and tells me that the house is on fire.”

He left almost immediately, taking only some books for his classes and some personal belongings. He lost very little — just a calculator and a number of books he had used for classes. Still, he admitted that the last several days had worn on him a little.

Senior Ryan Jacobson also lived in the house. He ran home from cross-country team practice to try to salvage some of his belongings when Anschutz called him about the fire. However, he lost most of them. He said that although no one in the house had renter’s insurance, those who lost many belongings were working through their parents’ homeowners insurance to cover the costs of their lost property.

“I may have a tough time replacing my boating captain’s license, though,” he said.

The residents believe the fire was started from either burning candles or a cigarette in 2017. Anschutz, Jacobson and senior Jake Remitz, another resident of the house, said that they did not blame the girls for what had happened.

“The houses around here are old and … they’re just asking for something like this to happen,” Anschutz said. “It could have happened to any of us.”

The Office of University Apartments and Off-Campus Student Services found the students at 2017 and 2023 new housing within four days. They are moving into a house on Kilbourn Avenue. The students expressed gratitude to Marquette for working quickly.

The residents of 2017 could not be reached for coment.

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