"We gave them hugs and kisses and told them we'd see them in the morning," she said.
Instead she woke up and the house was engulfed in flames, a blaze already too dangerous for her to do anything but watch as firefighters broke down the door and tried to rescue the kids. She saw them bring two apparently deceased children from the building. At that point, she said, she couldn't watch anymore.
"It just took everything away from me," she said.
City records show an inspection report last summer called for repairs to smoke detectors in the unit, among other violations. City spokesman Matt Laible said all of the violations were taken care of, and that the unit's rental license was renewed just a week ago.
The owner of the property, Paul Bertelson, said the family moved in about six to eight months ago.
"There were no disturbances. They were good tenants," he said, adding that the upper unit included two bedrooms on the second floor, and three on the third floor.
Bertelson's company identifies distressed or foreclosed properties, refurbishes them and rents to low-income families. He said the 102-year-old duplex had smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. The upper unit is heated by permanent baseboard units.
Asst. Fire Chief Cherie Penn said in an email that one of the more than 40 firefighters who responded to the scene suffered a minor injury and was being treated at a hospital.
Associated Press Writer Gretchen Ehlke contributed to this report from Milwaukee.