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Minneapolis house fire: 3 kids died of smoke inhalation and burns


The three young children killed in a north Minneapolis house fire over the weekend died of smoke inhalation and "thermal injuries," according to autopsy results released Wednesday by the Hennepin County medical examiner.

Latorious Stewart, 6, Latoria Stewart, 5, and Latorianna Stewart, who was almost 2, were all killed in the fire. Latoria died at Hennepin County Medical Center; the other two children died at the scene, according to the medical examiner.

The children had moved into the home with their mother Saturday. She was not injured in the blaze.

Cause of the fire undetermined

The cause of the fire is "undetermined," the Minneapolis Fire Department said Wednesday. But it remains under investigation.

A fire is "undetermined" when a cause can't be proven to "an acceptable level of certainty," the department said in a statement, according to FOX 9.

Fire officials believe the blaze started near the oven just before midnight, the fire department's report says. The oven door was found open, and the childrens' mother told investigators she was using it for heat because the furnace wasn't working.

Although the cause of the fire is undetermined, the report says one possible cause could be heat from the oven, "which may have raised the plywood paneling to its ignition temperature, starting the fire."

The home's natural gas service hadn't been activated when the family moved in, reports note. It's unclear why the heat hadn't been turned on, and some people in the community are questioning the landlord because of it, FOX 9 says.

However, city officials told the Star Tribune the landlord has complied with required inspections. City inspection records on the home show only minor violations, MPR News reports.

The community has been gathering to support the family and remember the three children. About 30 people attended a vigil at the Holsey Memorial Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in north Minneapolis Tuesday night, the Star Tribune says, where some people urged officials to change city ordinances to require a landlord make sure all utilities are working and turned on before tenants move in, the paper says.

Another vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Spiritual Church of God at 3978 W. Broadway. A fund to support the family has been set up at Wells Fargo, and donations can be made to the Stewart Family Memorial Fund, WCCO reports.

Pastor Harding Smith, who organized Wednesday's vigil, told MPR News the childrens' mother is not doing well after losing her three children, and she's asking for prayers.

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