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15-year-old girl dies Sunday in Hawley house fire

Crews respond to a fatal fire at 702 6th St. in Hawley, Minn., on Sunday. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

HAWLEY, Minn. – A 15-year-old girl is dead after a fire engulfed a home here early Sunday morning.

Firefighters responded to the fire at 702 6th St. around 1:40 a.m. Sunday, said Hawley Mayor Gary E. Johnson. Johnson is also part of Hawley’s rescue squad.

By the time he arrived on scene, the house was fully aflame. Johnson said he could feel the heat through his car windows, describing it as an “inferno.”

The deceased girl was identified as Rylie Efterfield, according to WDAY TV.

Efterfield’s mother, Kristen Bonham, and two siblings who were in the house were able to escape the fire, Johnson said. Efterfield is believed to have been on the top floor of the house. She is the oldest of six children.

“Every window had flames coming out of it. It was unbelievable,” Johnson said. “The house is gutted. People in the area are devastated.”

The exterior of the house looked charred on Sunday afternoon, with lines of smoke bleeding down the sides. The visible interior was blackened with smoke and soot.

Neighbors and onlookers declined comment, and most said they were too sad to talk and wanted to respect the family.

“It was just a really big fire. The house was completely engulfed; it was horrible,” said Alicia Qualley, of Crookston. Qualley was visiting her mother, who lives across the street from the destroyed house.

Six area fire departments fought the flames, and most of it was put out by 8:15 a.m. Sunday, Johnson said. The cause of the fire is not known at this time.

Burn patterns, among other things, will be looked at to determine the cause, said Gary Schultz of the Hawley Area Fire Department.

Due to the intensity of the fire, firefighters’ blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels were monitored by F-M Ambulance every 30 to 40 minutes throughout the night to ensure they weren’t in danger, Johnson said.

A crew of workers from Edina came to secure the house with arches and braces so firefighters could safely walk in the house. The large house that sits on the street corner used to be a funeral home, and the main structure was built in the 1940s or 1950s. Johnson said an addition to the house was built in the 1970s.

The Salvation Army was also on site, offering water and food to bystanders and firefighters.

Efterfield’s body is being taken to the Ramsey County coroner’s office for an autopsy. The fire is still under investigation.

Anna G. Larson, INFORUM

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