RACINE — A 78-year-old Racine woman described as a loving mother was pronounced dead Wednesday morning after she was pulled from her burning house at 2825 Webster St., according to authorities.
She has been identified as Marilyn Christensen, said Sgt. Rick Toeller of the Racine Police Department.
Her dog, who was about 25 to 30 pounds, also died in the fire, he said.
“(That dog) was a piece of her daughter,” said Tami Tetzlaff, 42, who lived next door to Christensen for approximately 12 years. For the last year and a half Christensen’s daughter, Elizabeth Solberg, had been living with her, Tetzlaff said. Solberg was later diagnosed with cancer and Christensen would go with her to every appointment, said Tetzlaff, describing her as a loving mother. In November, Solberg died, Tetzlaff said, and she has been trying to help Christensen out.
“I just talked to her last night,” Tetzlaff said of Christensen, who left behind several grandchildren and great-grandchildren. “She was going to have me take her to the store.” That didn’t happen.
Shortly after 8 a.m., the Racine Fire Department received a report from a neighbor of smoke coming from the house’s front window. When firefighters arrived, they found smoke pouring from the windows and flames inside, said Racine Fire Department Battalion Chief Willie Hargrove. They then found Christensen inside.
Christensen was pronounced dead at 9:01 a.m. at Wheaton Franciscan-All Saints hospital, 3801 Spring St., said Racine County Medical Examiner Michael Payne. The initial cause of her death is believed to be smoke inhalation, he said, although her body will be sent to Milwaukee County for an autopsy.
Christensen was on oxygen and smoked, Tetzlaff said. But it’s unknown if that was a factor in the fire. Racine firefighters said Wednesday afternoon the cause was still under investigation, although it is not considered suspicious.
Christensen had been renting the home for about 20 to 30 years, said Reda Pliura, whose husband owns the house at 2825 Webster St.
She planted flowers and “it was always neat and tidy,” Pliura said about the house.
“She was a lovely lady,” she said. “She will be missed.”