Three children died in a fire early Friday in the Argyle home their family rented, the owner of the house said. The children's mother was in critical condition at UW Hospital after handing her youngest child to safety, while, a neighbor said, their father screamed for help.
The father and youngest child were treated and released from a hospital.
The State Journal is not identifying the family because authorities had not yet released their names.
Authorities confirmed three people died in the blaze that was reported at about 3:10 a.m. at 402 Oak St., but did not release the ages of the victims.
Authorities won't name the victims until they have been positively identified, said Joell Schigul of the State Fire Marshal's Office.
The owner of the home, Tom Zwicker of Monroe, said he rented the property to a husband and wife and their four children. He said he was told by an insurance representative the three oldest children died in the fire.
"What happened is such a horrible thing. The house is always replaceable. But those kids," Zwicker said as his voice trailed off.
The cause of the fire is under investigation.
The State Fire Marshall's Office joined Argyle police and the Lafayette County Sheriff's Department in the investigation.
As officials spent most of Friday sifting through the damaged one-story, two-bedroom house, a neighbor watching from about 100 yards away recalled being awakened around 3 a.m. by the screams of the children's father.
"He was screaming that his kids were trapped in the house," Melissa Cueves said.
Cueves, who lives on Maple Street and had a clear view of the fire, said she sat up in bed to look out the window and all she could see was an orange glow and flames coming from the house. "Most of the fire was in the back of the house," she said. "The sliding glass door had exploded out."
As the town siren started to wail, alerting Argyle's volunteer firefighters, Cueves said she could see another neighbor, Todd Rear, running out to help the family.
"He got one of the kids out," Cueves said.
The injured mother handed her youngest child to Rear, according to his father, Bruce Rear.
As the fire raged on, "he just kept holding on to that child," Bruce Rear said.
The deaths of the children stunned residents of this tiny town 34 miles southwest of Madison.
At Argyle's pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade school, which the three elementary school-age children who died attended, Principal Nichole Schweitzer said some students and staffers sought help from the school counselor, as well as counselors and a school psychologist from Pecatonica High School in nearby Blanchardville and counselors from the Lafayette County Human Services who were brought in for the day.
"Everybody here knows each other regardless of age or grade," Schweitzer said. "What happens to one happens to all. It's a sad day for us."
Written by Wisconsin State Journal
Courtesy of YellowBrix - YellowBrix