MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Anoka County investigators are trying to figure out what sparked a fire that killed an elderly 93-year-old couple Friday night.
Crews were called to the 3500 block of Crosstown Blvd. Northeast around 8:30 p.m. The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office says drivers passing by noticed the house engulfed in smoke and flames.
The fire was so involved that firefighters couldn’t get inside until several hours later, and that’s when they found the remains of the man and woman. Investigators say the severity of the fire made their bodies too difficult to identify but they found one person in what appeared to be a bedroom and another in a living room.
“The structure had some sort of wood burning insert in the fireplace. They’ve not determined that to be the cause or origin but certainly a possibility at this point,” said Lt. Paul Sommer with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.
The couple’s longtime friends Dave and Maryann Egan came to the fire scene to try and process what happened.
“We kind of figured ‘Oh no’ and it was,” said Dave Egan.
The Egans have long-known the couple as Wally and Helen Erhnreiter, both age 93, from their church. They say the couple is very involved in the Church of St. Paul in Ham Lake where they rarely miss a mass.
“They are very kind and gentle people,” said Maryann Egan. “Helen and Wally were so opposite, yet they were made for each other. She was the legs and he was the mind. He had the voice and he was the talker and just kept the two of them going. “
The Egans say they spoke with the couple’s two adult daughters and the couple’s loved ones had worried another factor in the fire could be the couple’s old furnace. They lived in an old farmhouse for decades.
“A shock, just an elderly couple, a fantastic sweet couple. The fact they’re gone, we hope they went together and hope there was no pain or anything else, because they were meant for each other. They were a beautiful couple,” said Dave Egan.
The Ham Lake Fire Department, the State Fire Marshal’s Office, Anoka County Fire Investigation and the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office continue to investigate. They say they received no 911 call from inside the home and have no current evidence the couple made attempts to escape.
The Anoka County Medical Examiner’s office will identify the couple’s remains early next week.
Investigators say foul play does not appear to be a factor in the fire.