By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There is heartbreak in New Richmond, Wisconsin, after a 4-year-old boy was killed in a fire.

First responders and neighbors say there was a heroic effort to rescue the child Monday afternoon. The fire was reported just after 3 p.m., and the New Richmond Fire Department arrived in just seven minutes, but volunteer firefighters say it was already too late.

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Fire investigators sifted through the remains of the gutted home on the quiet cul de sac where it once stood. New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne, who’s also a volunteer firefighter, was on the scene and described the desperate efforts to save the boy.

“As I told one of the family members last night, we have kids, we have grandkids — we tried everything we could to get into that building,” he said.

Neighbor Allison O’Shea rushed outside after hearing loud noises, only to see the fire and the boy’s two older sisters, who are in middle school, crying out.

“‘My brother’s in there! I don’t know what to do! It’s my fault!’ I mean, what do you say? I just hugged them and said, Let’s pray, let’s pray,” she said.

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The two girls told O’Shea they were baby-sitting the boy when they decided to go outside to play. Within minutes, the home was on fire. The father — who was running an errand — tried to save the child, as did neighbors.

“It just was a panic, it was frantic, it was rough,” O’Shea said.

First responders quickly joined in the rescue effort , the roof of the home collapsed, one firefighter was injured as he jumped out of the second level.

“We fought hard, we did everything we possibly could,” Horne said. “We are just devastated by this.”

The Wisconsin State Fire Marshall has been called in to investigate. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but local officials tell us there is nothing to indicate that the fire was anything but a tragic accident.

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The firefighter who was injured is expected to fully recover. The St. Croix Sheriff’s Department has not released the name of the child.

Esme Murphy