2 children killed, 2 survive West Allis duplex fire

A fire was reported in the upper level of a duplex in the 1600 block of S. 57th St. shortly after 3:30 a.m., according to police.

A fire was reported in the upper level of a duplex in the 1600 block of S. 57th St. shortly after 3:30 a.m., according to police. Photo By Mike De Sisti

Tom Kertscher

March 17, 2013

West Allis - Four boys - three brothers and a friend - were alone in the upper level of a duplex when it caught fire in the middle of the night early Sunday.

Two of the brothers survived.

One brother and the friend did not.

Pavielle Gonzales, a cousin of the three brothers, happened to be driving near the duplex when she saw the flames.

Here is her story:

The three brothers are Michael Gonzales, 14; Joel Gonzales, 13; and Kendall, 4, whose last name is different from his older brothers but was not known Sunday night. The name of the other boy, believed to be a friend of Michael's or Joel's, wasn't known.

The siblings, who also have an older brother, don't live with their mother. But they were spending the night Saturday at her duplex, which is in the 1600 block of S. 57th St.

They had been celebrating Joel's 13th birthday, which had occurred a few days earlier.

About 3:30 a.m. Sunday, Pavielle Gonzales, 28, who lives near the duplex, was driving to the 24-hour gym where she works out. She saw flames coming from a home and wondered if it was the duplex where the boys' mother lives.

It was.

"I was there before the fire trucks got there," Pavielle said.

The neighbors in the lower unit of the duplex had banged on the upstairs door enough to awaken Joel.

Joel was outside when Pavielle pulled up.

"He said the first thing he thought was 'Get the baby' and he did," Pavielle said, referring to Joel and Kendall. "He tried to go back, and the flames were too much."

Joel and Kendall were taken to Children's Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa and were expected to recover.

Michael and the friend never made it out of the duplex.

Pavielle called the mother of the three boys from the scene.

"She was pretty hysterical. She just wanted to know where her babies were," Pavielle said.

Pavielle didn't ask the mother where she was, saying, "It wasn't my place."

She recalled Michael as being "just like a big teddy bear. He had a big heart."

"He was all about having fun and family," said Pavielle's partner, Natalie Gonzales.

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