NEW ULM, Minn. (WCCO) – Authorities confirmed six people are dead after a large fire in New Ulm early Saturday morning.
The New Ulm Fire Department said at least ten people were inside a New Ulm bed and breakfast when it became engulfed in flames. Fire officials received a report of a fire at about 1:45 a.m. at the Bohemian Bed and Breakfast, located at the intersection of 3rd Avenue South and Minnesota Street.
When authorities arrived, four people had escaped. One person was treated and released on scene, another treated and released at New Ulm Medical Center, and two others were airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center.
Zach Kuck, 17, of New Ulm, shot a video shortly after the fire started. Kuck says as he shot the video, he heard a woman screaming for help.
Family members on scene said cries for help likely came from the bed and breakfast owner Bobbi McCrea and her two young daughters, ages 3 and 15. The family said all three died in the fire, along with three others, whose identities remain unknown. New Ulm Fire Chief Paul Macho says they are likely out of town guests.
“It pretty much just haunts your mind,” Kuck said. “I pretty much stood and watched those people die.”
Family friend Darla Gebhard says McCrea was a pillar in the community, from historic preservation efforts to community theater.
“Bobbi is a very bubbly energetic asset to New Ulm, she moved back ten years ago, and immediately she and her husband joined Brown County Historical Society and other historic organizations. With her bed and breakfast, she certainly put New Ulm on the map, built a website and did a lot for tourism in New Ulm, which I think she will be remembered for,” Gebhard said.
Gebhard said McCrea was born in Ulm and moved back specifically to open up the business and renovate the house.
Authorities say that autopsies will need to completed before the other victims can be identified. The autopsies are expected to be completed Tuesday.
Authorities say they are confident that there are no more victims. In total, investigators say four adults died along with one teen and one child.
Fire Chief Paul Macho said the house was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived, the heat made it too difficult to enter despite repeated attempts to make it inside. There was extensive damage to the interior, including a collapse of the third floor and roof, which made it difficult for firefighters to move around the structure. Fire crews were on the scene until late Saturday evening.
Macho called it emotional for many of the firefighters who knew the McCrea family, saying the department faced a day with long faces and heavy hearts.
Owner Bobbi McCrea unknowingly sent out a final message on her Twitter account at 10:30 last night. She tweeted: “Providing Shelter from the storm. More important, good company swept in, wow.”
Her family released a statement to WCCO-TV. It read: “Bobbi was a golden thread woven throughout the tapestry of the community.”
The cause of the fire is not known at this time. Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s Office arrived Saturday afternoon to start an investigation.