Authorities pulled two bodies from the rubble Monday afternoon after a large fire engulfed one of three houses on an Amish family's property in southeastern Minnesota.

The blaze erupted shortly after 1 a.m. on land just north of Canton and 14 miles south of Lanesboro in Fillmore County, where there is also a saw mill operation, according to Sheriff Tom Kaase.

The fire struck the middle house, but also burned — less severely — the homes on each side, the sheriff said.

The two victims were taken to the coroner's office for identification, the sheriff said. Two others were taken to a hospital in La Crosse, Wis., for treatment of injuries, while a third was sent to the same hospital for observation, Kaase said.

There's no preliminary indication of how the fire started, Kaase said, adding that there's nothing to indicate that its origins are suspicious.

The sheriff said that there's always a concern in the winter months about houses and other buildings whose owners rely on wood or propane for heat.

This property, he noted, used wood as its primary heat source.

Canton firefighters were helped by crews from nearby Harmony and Mabel.

The extreme cold required firefighters to take frequent breaks and rotate their duties, Kaase said.

Paul Walsh