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Emily Welker, Published July 29 2013

Investigation of fatal Hawley fire expected to take days

HAWLEY, Minn. – Investigators from the State Fire Marshal’s office were still on scene Monday afternoon trying to determine the cause of a fatal house fire here early Sunday morning.

Authorities on Monday identified the 15-year-old girl who died in the fire at 702 6th St. S. as Rylie Efterfield of Hawley.

Efterfield was one of four family members who were home about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, said Lt. Stephen Landsem of the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.

The other three family members, her mother and her two younger brothers, escaped the fire, which Landsem said gutted the three-story building.

Investigators will likely not determine a cause for another day or two, Landsem said Monday.

Landsem said a memorial to Efterfield had emerged in the yard in front of her home in the hours since the fire destroyed it. Her family was staying with relatives in the area, he said.

“Obviously, they’re not doing well – it’s pretty tragic,” Landsem said.

Six area fire departments responded to fight the fire, which was finally put out at about 8:15 a.m. Sunday.

The damage was so extensive local authorities had to call in a crew from Edina to re-brace and stabilize the structure so investigators could get in to work on it, Landsem said.

The home, which he described as “a tinderbox,” had originally been used as an old funeral parlor before being converted into a single-family residence.

Landsem said there were smoke detectors in the home, but he did not know whether they were in working order or not.

A fund for the family has been established through the State Bank of Hawley. Donations can be made to: Bonham Benefit Fund, State Bank of Hawley, 416 6th St., P.O. Box 648, Hawley, Minn. 56549.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541