LAKE CITY, Iowa (AP) — A house fire early Tuesday in a small western Iowa town killed three children and one adult, police said.

Lake City Police Chief Bobby Rist said one of his officers noticed smoke coming from the southern edge of town while he was patrolling downtown several blocks away at 1:45 a.m. Officer Dana Cook followed the smoke to the house and found it ablaze.

Cook said the intense heat and smoke from the fire prevented him from getting into the house.

“Visibility inside the home was very, very low and it was really, really hot,” Cook said to KCCI television.

Rist said Cook, who has four young kids of his own, wanted to help the family, but it wasn’t safe to enter the home.

“It took several hours to extinguish the fire and make it safe for firemen to enter and try and find any of the victims,” Rist said.

The parents of the children and one of their other kids were at work, Rist said. The identities of the four people killed in the fire were not being released Tuesday afternoon because officials still were verifying their identities.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the fire’s cause although it is not considered suspicious. State Fire Marshal Ray Reynolds said he hoped to be able to release a cause Wednesday.

Gloria Pettit said she and her husband noticed all the fire trucks Tuesday morning from their home about a block away. She said not much is left of the home that burned.

“It’s a really sad tragedy,” Pettit said.

Lake City is a town of about 1,700 residents that sits about 75 miles northwest of Des Moines. Rist said that means that he and the officers and firefighters responding to the blaze likely knew the family, making the tragedy more personal.

“It’s difficult for us and for the firefighters,” Rist said.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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