Milwaukee Chief Says Crews Did Two Searches


The Milwaukee Fire Department is reviewing its policies after crews failed to find a woman's body inside a burned home.

"The question is why? Why did we miss this fire victim?" Milwaukee Fire Department Chief Mark Rohlfing said.

Around midnight Friday, crews responded to a house fire near Center Street and Humboldt Avenue.

"There was someone at the scene and they said there was someone missing," Rohlfing said.

That someone was the Rev. Mary Ellen Freundl, a speech therapist, daughter and friend to many.

Standard protocol is two searches, an initial one when firefighters arrive and a second one when the fire is out to look for victims. The chief said they did two searches, but they still did not find the woman.

Freundl's mother filed a missing person's report Monday morning. Shortly after that, police and fire officials found a woman's body in the home.

"It's almost a sick feeling, to think that, oh my goodness, you know, through all our efforts that somehow we bypassed a fire victim," Rohlfing said.

Officials have not identified the victim yet, and they aren't revealing specifics about where the body was found, just that it was an unusual place.

"I had one of my senior deputy chiefs tell me that he doubts if he would've recognized, if looking in that area, if he would've seen that as the victim," Rohlfing said.

It is a rare situation, almost unheard of, but the chief said that even one case like this in 25 years, is one too many. Now the Fire Department will examine what went wrong, and what it can do to prevent such deaths in the future.

Fire officials said the house did not have working smoke detectors.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

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