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When Peter Cuccia started grilling out for the first time on his back patio Wednesday afternoon he noticed heavy white smoke coming from his neighbor’s home at 1310 Michigan Boulevard.

Thinking it was a kitchen fire, he realized the smoke had gone from white to black and called 911.

“That’s when I knew it wasn’t a kitchen fire,” he said. “Black smoke don’t come from a small kitchen fire.”

Fire and rescue personnel from the Racine Fire Department responded to the fire, which spread to parts of the second floor of the home. Heavy black smoke billowed from the roof and windows. But residents were unaware of the fire until Cuccia yelled for them to come outside.

From his back porch Cuccia warned his neighbors to get out of the house and could only watch as the flames shot out the front of the multi-family house. One of his neighbors walked out of the burning house, not realizing it was on fire.

“Get out of the house!” Cuccia told him. “‘Why?’ The man asked. ‘Because you are on fire,’ I says.'”

Cuccia told the man the flames were coming from the second floor right above him. The man quickly got out. When the man knocked on the door of the other apartment, two adults and three little children came out, Cuccia said.

Officials with the Racine Fire Department reported that a total of five children and five adults fled the home before they arrived on scene. No one was injured. But a pet was found inside the home and firefighters were able to revive it. The estimated loss is $55,000, according to a press release by the Racine Fire Department.

Firefighters reported that a five-year-old child with a lighter set the fire in a bedroom. Officials with the Red Cross of Racine County are helping those that lived in the house to find a temporary place to live.


Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.