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Columbus, NE mourns for four who died in house fire

Published: Oct. 19, 2020 at 9:02 PM CDT
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COLUMBUS, Neb. (WOWT) - Firefighters in Columbus say they had not had a fatal fire in years -- but all of that changed early Saturday morning.

The fire claimed the lives of 27-year old Lars Barcel, his four-month-old son Lars Jr., 28-year-old Janell Miller and her six-year-old daughter Natasha Lambrecht all from smoke inhalation when the family home caught fire.

An entire community is mourning the loss.

State Fire marshal investigators say an ember from a wood-burning fireplace started the fire.

“The spark or ember found its way to that cardboard box and caught it on fire, at least that’s what the theory is and from there it spread throughout the home,” said Columbus Fire Department Chief Dan Miller.

“I always remember my parents saying parents are supposed to die before their children and unfortunately when we have circumstances like this when you see a young child hurt or lose their life -- it hits us hard all the way through, whether you have that student in your classroom or not,” said Columbus Schools Superintendent Dr. Troy Loeffelholz.

Not only has this tragedy affected the community, but it also affects first responders. Miller says counselors are helping emergency crews that were on the scene.

“One thing we don’t want to do is compartmentalize it -- bury it, take it home, and let it bother us down the road,” he said.

Miller added the entire city will have to work together to get through this tragic event.

“It is a tragedy for the whole community. Columbus is a small town and almost everyone knew that family or members of that family and so it will have a big impact for a long time,” Miller said.

Fire investigators say there were two smoke detectors in the home, but they were not connected to batteries.

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