The two children who died in a farmhouse fire this week in southwestern Minnesota were identified Friday as Hazel Thooft, 7, and her brother Isaiah, 4.
Funds on behalf of the family are being set up to help parents Bernadette and Matt Thooft and their five other children. They fled the flames about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon at the home northeast of the tiny town of Lucan in Redwood County.
The surviving Thooft children range in age from 2 to 11.
Searchers working Wednesday after the fire and into Thursday found Hazel and Isaiah many hours apart amid the burned-out shell of the two-story house on the 8-acre property, said a family friend.
Hazel was a second-grader at St. Anne’s Catholic School in Wabasso, while Isaiah was attending preschool twice a week in the Wabasso School District.
Isaiah, who attended “Cottontail” preschool, “was a little boy with a sparkle in his eye and a contagious grin on his face almost all the time,” said Wabasso Superintendent Wade McKittrick.
“He was an extremely happy boy who loved to come to school and play with the other children in his class. Isaiah was a smart boy with lots of energy and wit.”
Family friend Ellie Shaw said that Hazel, a twin, “was fun-spirited” and loved to read, draw, sing and play her guitar. “She was always helpful [and] liked to play with other kids,” Shaw added.
Cheryl Geihl is heading an online fundraising campaign on behalf of the Thooft family at www.giveforward.com. As of Friday evening, the site said about $10,000 had been raised so far.
Others collecting on behalf of the Thooft family include 1st Independent Bank of Lucan and the United Way of Southwest Minnesota in Marshall.
Authorities have yet to say what sparked the blaze.
In February, the Thoofts opened the Store: Thrift and More, which sells groceries, clothing, books and collectibles in a general store atmosphere in nearby Vesta.
Neal Hansen, a firefighter responding from Vesta, was hospitalized after he slipped and was run over by a fire rig.
Hansen had surgery on his right leg to repair numerous deep cuts inflicted while he was under the pumper truck, and he was scheduled to have a rod placed in his left leg during surgery Friday in Mankato, said his wife, Tiffany Hansen. She said her husband will be out of work for three months while he recovers.