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Community Devastated By Death Of Girl, 10, In Hay Bale Fire

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A Minnesota sheriff says a hay bale fire that took a little girl’s life appears to be a tragic accident.

Firefighters found the body of Perri Heideman on her family’s farm last week. She was just 10 years old, and her death has devastated the small community of Adrian in southwestern Minnesota.

The farm of Perri’s family served as her playground. It’s why her parents, Lonna and Todd Heideman, are lost thinking of life without her.

“She was pure joy,” Lonna Heideman said. “If we were having a bad day she’d come up to us and say, does someone need a hug?”

It was just before 7 p.m. last Thursday when Todd called 911 after some hay bales caught fire. Soon after, Lonna heard that Perri couldn’t be found.

“At first, I didn’t know what that meant,” Lonna said.

A frantic search by family and firefighters would confirm the worst.

“We found her,” Lonna said. “Not in the place we hoped.”

Her lifeless body was among the heaps of burned hay.

At her small school, Perri’s desk sits empty. Jordon Peters was Perri’s third grade teacher.

“It was probably one of the hardest days of my life,” he said.

Perri’s classmates are honoring her memory with purple shirts. The entire community is expected to wear them to her funeral this weekend in Luverne.

The shirts are selling for $15 and all of the money raised will go toward funeral expenses for the family.

The Heideman’s – who also have three grown children — are grateful for the support and prayers.

“It’s so appreciated,” Lonna said. “It’s overwhelming.”

Fire investigators still don’t know what started the hay bale fire. The investigation should be finished next week.

To find out more about Perri or how to help the Heideman family, click here.

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