The fire killed 4-year-old Isaiah Thooft and his older sister, 7-year-old Hazel Thooft, but parents Bernadette and Matthew Thooft and their four other children managed to escape the home safely when the blaze broke out on the afternoon of Dec. 4, 2013.
State Fire Marshal Steve Kellen says the fire originated in the south area of the main level family room, but no cause could be determined. Kellen notes that officials couldn't rule out two possibilities for the cause of the fire – faulty electrical equipment related to an artificial Christmas tree, or a child playing with an ignitions source, such as a butane lighter or matches, the report says.
Investigators say they consider this case closed.
Firefighters said the single-family house located 22 miles east of Marshall, Minnesota, was fully engulfed with flames when they arrived at the scene on the day of the fire.
The report says Bernadette Thooft had been napping with three of her children when her son, 7-year-old Augustus, told her an alarm was going off. Bernadette Thooft noticed smoke outside of her bedroom and began to lead her children out of the house when she saw her 11-year-old son, Zach DeCan, and told him to bring the other three children out to the van while she went to find Isaiah and Hazel.
Flames were spreading across the family room ceiling preventing her from getting to her two other children. Bernadette Thooft and Zach tried to get to them through the windows, but couldn't because of ice, according to the report.
The body of one child was found the night of the fire, while the other wasn’t located until the next day.
Responding Vesta Fire Department firefighter Neal Hansen was badly injured when he slipped on the ice and was run over by a fire rig. Seven fire departments responded to the scene, WCCO says.