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Fire chief: Shell casings ignited by Tosa house fire likely caused gunshot sounds

Aug. 20, 2011

Two spent shotgun shell casings were found in the area of a Wauwatosa home where a fire broke out Thursday.

The state fire marshal, along with members of the Wauwatosa Fire and Police departments sifted through the rubble at a home at 119th and Cherry Street on Friday.

No weapons were found but the fire likely ignited the shells, which resulted in the sounds of gunfire reported by firefighters and neighbors.

"Unfortunately, there's no way to tell the difference," Chief Rob Ugaste said. "It sounds the same as if someone were firing."

Ugaste called the on-site investigation a "painstaking process" because the roof was burned in and the second floor where the fire originated was in horrible condition. The Milwaukee County Sheriff's Office had to deploy a team to stabilize the upper level so investigators could examine it.

"It was in such unstable condition that the floor would have fallen under our weight," Ugaste said.

The investigation into the cause of the fire remains ongoing, but the on-site portion of the analysis is done and what is left of the home has been turned back over to the owner, Ugaste said.

As for the body that was found on the second floor, identification and the results of an autopsy completed Friday have not yet been released.

Two people lived in the home, a mother and her adult son. The mother got out of the home, but the son was believed to be inside.

Firefighters called out from the top of the stairs amidst thick black smoke but they received no response. Instead they heard what sounded like gun shots, so they exited the house.

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