A two-alarm fire destroyed a parole and probation office on 73rd Street and Capitol Drive at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.
"Like, wow, this is crazy," said Marcus Sims, who was meeting his probation officer.
It was a startling sight for Sims when he showed up for a visit with his probation officer and instead was stopped by police tape keeping him away from the now-blackened building.
"(It) looked like somebody bombed the place or something. Don't look like no fire," Sims said.
Bright orange flames seared through the roof as firefighters began their attack about 4:30 a.m.
"There was actually smoke pushing through the mortar lines of the brick work. It's not a great sign for us," Milwaukee Fire Department Battalion Chief Aaron Lipski said.
Afraid the roof would cave in, the firefight moved from the inside out. A second alarm sounded, and the fire was finally extinguished. Those first firefighters at the scene became a key part of the investigation.
"There are firefighters on this department trained to look for the color of the smoke, the intensity of the smoke, the color of the flames, because it's not always what you'd expect," Lipski said.
Investigators won't say yet if the fire is arson. Once the flames turned to ash, police and state Fire Marshal's Office joined in, looking for clues as to how the fire started.
A rock appears to have shattered the front door and firefighters could tell where the flames first sparked.
"It appears to have started on the west end of the building here near the middle run of windows there," Lipski said.
The Department of Corrections is trying to salvage what records it can and is temporarily moving its 28 employees and operations to another location
"I guess I gotta go down to Port Washington," Sims said.
The operations are now set up at the regional office near Port Washington Road and Capitol Drive. The Department of Corrections said the office services about 1,100 offenders. Agents should be getting in touch with all of those people about the change in location.
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