RACINE, Wis. — An apartment fire killed two people and forced many residents to leap to safety from second-floor windows, authorities said. About 50 people were left homeless.
Firefighters said they found the bodies of Gloria Denton, 44, and her daughter Natesha Denton, 9, early Saturday, after the fire was contained enough for them to enter the Courtyard Apartments. The bodies were found under debris near a stair landing on the second story, the fire department said.
Police are following several leads to determine whether the fire was an arson, Police Lt. Jerry Baldukas said.
The fire is believed to have started Friday in a sofa that was in a stairwell and being moved by tenants leaving the building, Fire Chief Steve Hansen said.
Flames quickly spread through the attic to the entire building, and the collapse of parts of the roof and the second story complicated firefighters' efforts.
Authorities said all residents have been located. The two-story building had about 50 apartments.
Most displaced tenants were taken to an emergency shelter at a local high school, said Jaime Buege of the American Red Cross.
Resident Allieas Williams, 25, said he opened a door from a second-floor apartment when he heard a fire alarm, but encountered smoke and heat. He said he closed the door and told everyone in the apartment they would have to jump out the window.
Williams said he jumped first, and his month-old daughter was dropped to him by the baby's mother. After her two other children jumped, the woman followed and suffered an ankle injury, he said.
Officials said at least three people were hospitalized for minor injuries.
As many as 75 people who lived in a nearby building had to leave their homes because they lost electrical service, the fire department said.