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Funds from fire dept chili cook-off donated to family of 3 children who died in blaze

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The Minneapolis Fire Department held a chili cook-off Sunday, and donated all proceeds to the family whose three children recently died in a house fire.

Proceeds from the event were initially going towards various Minneapolis Local 82 charities, the event's Facebook page notes. But after the fatal fire, officials decided to use the money to help the family with funeral and memorial costs, WCCO reports.

The three children – Latorious Thomas, 6, Latoria Thomas, 5, and Latorianna Thomas, who was almost 2 – died of smoke inhalation and "thermal injuries" in the fire. It started just before midnight on Oct. 3, according to the Hennepin County medical examiner.

The chili event, which was part of Stanley's Northeast Bar Room's fifth anniversary celebration, raised about $1,600 Sunday, WCCO says. Eleven fire stations competed in the cook-off, with Minneapolis Fire Station 21 coming in first place.

Patrons paid $20 for chili samples made by the different fire stations, and then got the chance to vote for their favorite, according to Stanley's website. The event also included live music, a dunk-a-hunk tank, and a raffle.

The children had just moved into the north Minneapolis home with their 26-year-old mother and were reportedly using the oven for heat. Fire officials believe that could have sparked the fire, but investigators say the cause is "undetermined," although it remains under investigation.

Investigators are also looking into whether the mother was home at the time of the fire as she claims. They have asked for a search warrant to gain access to her cell phone records, MPR News reports. She has not been accused of or charged with any crime at this point however.

A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Elim Lutheran Church in Robbinsdale, the church's Facebook page says. A fund – The Stewart Family Memorial Fund – has been set up for the family through Wells Fargo.

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