MOUNT PLEASANT — Police and fire investigators Saturday were trying to determine the cause of a house fire late Friday night in which a 49-year-old woman was found dead.
Mount Pleasant police late Saturday afternoon identified the vicitm as Lori L. Liesner, a resident of the home. The cause of her death was still under investigation as of late Saturday afternoon, Sgt. Jason Vaccaro of the Mount Pleasant Police Department reported.
Battalion Chief Steve Salvo of the South Shore Fire Department reported that Liesner’s body was found after firefighters arrived at the home at 6618 Durand Ave. at 11:08 p.m. Friday — four minutes after being dispatched — and found heavy fire and smoke visible from several windows.
Firefighters located Liesner’s body within five minutes of entering the home to attack the fire, Salvo reported.
Racine County Medical Examiner Mike Payne said Liesner’s parents, who live in Racine, were notified of the incident early Saturday morning.
The Racine County Medical Examiner’s Office was called to the fire scene early; first responders had covered Liesner’s body with a sheet as it lay in the yard in front of the house. The house is located on the north side of Durand, a little more than a block east of the Walmart Super Center and west of Highway 31 near Stuart-McBride Park.
Payne and neighbors said Liesner lived alone. Her body has been sent for an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
According to South Shore Fire Department Battalion Chief John Radewan, the Racine County Fire Investigation Task Force was at the scene Saturday afternoon investigating the cause of the fire.
Fire scene report
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Upon arriving on scene, Salvo reported a working fire with smoke and flames visible. The smell of smoke from the fire could be detected as far east as Ohio Street.
Within the first 15 minutes of the fire, Salvo requested mutual aid to the scene.
In between questions from police and fire officials, the owner of the home told The Journal Times that Liesner had been a tenant of the house for 15 years and worked at the nearby Menards. Neighbors said Liesner frequently was observed walking to and from work and to nearby stores.
Adela Hernandez, 72, who lives just east of the fire scene, said she saw Liesner only “from far away,” but said she would wave and say “hi and bye.”
Hernandez and her son, Alfredo Hernandez, 38, of Janesville, had just returned to the home Adela has rented for the past year.
Alfredo said they noticed a burning smell, almost like burning rubber cable, he said. Then they saw a man walking in the yard of 6618 Durand who was shining a flashlight in the windows of the home. That man, apparently another neighbor, directed Alfredo to call 911 saying there was a fire in the residence.
Alfredo, who works at the Ardagh glass plant in Burlington, said he could see flames inside the residence and observed firefighters pull Liesner’s body from the house.
Salvo said the home, which the owner said dates to the 1940s, incurred heavy fire, heat and smoke damage and is likely unlivable. Early estimates peg damage at $70,000, Salvo said. The fire and police departments and Medical Examiner’s Office were assisting the county Fire Investigation Task Force with the investigation.
Durand Avenue was closed for about three hours late Friday night and early Saturday morning between Oakes Road and Storybook Drive while fire crews worked the fire, packed up equipment and investigators began their work.
South Shore firefighters received assistance at the scene from the Racine, Caledonia, Raymond and Somers fire departments and from the Racine Fire Bells. Kansasville, Somers and Oak Creek fire crews manned South Shore’s Sturtevant firehouse during the call.
Mount Pleasant police received assistance with traffic control from the Racine County Sheriff’s Office and the State Patrol.
Michael Burke contributed to this report.