Neighbor, firefighters help save Milton teens from apartment fire
MILTON Eugene Siekert had just finished his last cigarette and was reaching for the door handle of his Milton home Tuesday night when he heard a window screen rip next door and a girl yell for help.
He looked up and saw 15-year-old Brianna Miller hanging from a window in the apartment building next door at 864 Parkview Drive. Smoke was billowing from the top of the building.
Siekert ran into his apartment at 885 Arthur Drive, yelled to his wife, April, to call 911 and then hustled back outside. He yelled up to Brianna.
"I started asking her if anybody else was in the house," Siekert said.
Brianna told him that her father, John Miller, 34; older sister Victoria Miller, 17, and the family's dog, Monster, were inside.
"I couldn't see anything but started yelling to see if anybody was downstairs that might have fallen asleep," Siekert said.
He opened the front door.
"The dog came running right up to me," he said.
The open door cleared some of the smoke, and Siekert could see the fire had started from food left cooking on the stove. The flames were beneath the stairs that were Brianna's route of escape.
"I told her, 'Either you're going to have to run down the stairs or jump out the window,'" he said.
She asked if he was sure he could catch her if she jumped.
"I told her, 'I'm going to try.'"
Brianna jumped, and Siekert broke her 15-foot fall. The impact knocked him to the ground.
"She just started crying hysterically," Siekert said.
"My wife put a jacket on her and tried to get her away from the apartment, but she ran away looking for her sister."
They found 17-year-old Victoria on the other side of the building standing on a porch roof.
"She was pinned up against the wall that started on fire," Siekert said.
They couldn't find the girls' father, John Miller.
Milton firefighters arrived minutes after the 10:32 p.m. fire was reported.
"They saw the apartment was fully involved in fire and were apprised while en route there was a victim on the porch. So that became the priority—to do the rescue," Milton Fire Chief Loren Lippincott said.
John Miller showed up a few minutes later. He had left food on the stove before driving to Janesville on errands, Lippincott said.
"I can't believe how fast it went up. It was really scary," Miller said.
The Miller apartment, one of four in building assessed at $198,800, is a total loss, Lippincott said.
He estimated damage to the building and contents totals $75,000.
The sisters are staying with their mother, Laura Miller, in Milton. She said the girls didn't go to school Wednesday. They still were recovering from the shock of the incident and weren't ready to talk about it.
"It was traumatizing," Laura said.
"They lost everything—all their school stuff," Laura said. "We're trying to get notes organized from school, getting their books back together for them and resupplying."
Brianna is a freshman and Milton High School and Victoria is a junior.
They slept in their mother's bed with her Tuesday night.
"It's not such a big bed," Laura said.
John Miller is in a Janesville hotel and getting American Red Cross assistance.
He called Siekert a hero.
Lippincott agreed: "This could have been a fatal fire very easily."