Fire that killed father, 2 young sons likely caused by cooking in the garage

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The fire that killed two young boys and their father in South St. Paul earlier this month was likely caused by cooking equipment, the South Metro Fire Department said Monday.

Soeun Sem, 60, and his sons, 5-year-old Alexander and 2-year-old Eric, died of smoke inhalation in the Oct. 13 fire, which started in the attached garage where Sem was known to prepare food, officials said.

Propane cooking equipment was found in the garage, the fire department says. Investigators noted the garage door and the door leading into the home were both open at the time of the blaze, which likely allowed smoke and fire to rapidly spread into the house.

There were working smoke detectors in the home, the fire department noted, however it is "probable that thick smoke and high heat conditions prevented the escape of all three victims from the second story of the home."

The fire has been deemed accidental.

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