By Adam Duxter

BARRON, Wis. (WCCO) — Two young children and their father are dead following an early Thursday morning house fire in northwestern Wisconsin.

First responders say a call came in shortly before 3:30 a.m. They arrived to learn three people were still inside. They’re now trying to piece together answers of how this tragedy happened.

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Less than 12 hours after the fire, the emotional toll is still hitting Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald.

“This was a tough one. This was probably the first time in my career, the first time in the fire chief’s career, that we’ve seen firemen carrying children out of house,” Fitzgerald said.

The victims are 44-year-old Donald Albee, his 5-year-old daughter Emily and 6-year-old son Conner. The two were both students at a nearby elementary school.

(credit: CBS)

Fire Chief Mike Romsos was one of the first on the scene.

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“It makes your heart drop, it really does, especially when there was children involved in it,” Romsos said.

The call for a fire came from 49-year-old Delores Dahlberg, who owned the home, and was Donald’s girlfriend.

“It was the biggest fire I’ve seen in a long time as far as fires spread,” Romsos said. “I live half a city away, and when I pulled out of my driveway, I could see the glow in the sky.”

The Wisconsin Division of Criminal Investigation is now assisting in determining a cause. First responders say they haven’t ruled anything out.

“This town knows adversity very well, and they handled it well, and they’ll handle this well, of course, as they have in the past,” Fitzgerald said.

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He says they hope to have more answers in the coming days. He did say the fire was not related to the storm because the timing of both don’t match up.

Adam Duxter