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Victims of northern Minnesota house fire identified

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

By Crystal Dey

Forum News Service

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Two people who died in a home destroyed by fire Tuesday night in Minnesota’s Hubbard County have been identified.

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Phyllis Kleeb, 79, and her son, Frank Kleeb, 56, were inside the residence when it caught fire.

Phyllis' sister-in-law, Marcia Kleeb, was notified Wednesday morning of Phyllis and Frank’s deaths. Marcia said she could see the flames from her back door Tuesday night.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," Marcia said. "I haven't gone over to look."

The Bemidji, Cass Lake and Lakeport fire departments responded shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday to a call of a fully engulfed structure at 26897 Beltrami Line Road south of Bemidji in Helga Township.

Marcia said a neighbor first noticed the fire and called the fire department.

Since the house was on the north side of the road, in Hubbard County, Cass Lake took the lead. The fire departments were on the scene for about eight hours.

"The home and its contents are considered a total loss," Bemidji Fire Chief Dave Hoefer said in a news release Wednesday morning.

Original reports indicated it was unknown whether anyone was inside the home, according to a Hubbard County sheriff’s deputy on scene Tuesday. Once the flames were extinguished, authorities found the remains of two people inside the residence.

The Hubbard County Sheriff's Office has not yet publically confirmed the Kleebs’ identities. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Thirty-four firefighters used one engine, four water tenders and about 24,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames. The Bemidji School District provided a bus to warm firefighters in the subzero temperatures.

The fire departments were assisted by the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office, Hubbard County Sheriff's Office, Beltrami County Emergency Management, the State Fire Marshal's Office, Beltrami Electric Co-op, Hubbard County Highway Department, Lakeport First Response and the Bemidji Ambulance Service.

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