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Former pastor among 6 people killed in Wisconsin house fire

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Credit: WGBA

A fire at a vacation rental in Wisconsin claimed the lives of six people over the weekend, including a former pastor and two of his children, local officials confirmed on Monday. Several others survived.

The incident happened at around 2:35 a.m. on Sunday when deputies and firefighters were called for a structure fire at W5040 Morros Mile Road in Necedah, a town about 70 miles northwest of Madison.

Upon arrival, deputies saw the house was fully engulfed in flames and found several individuals in the driveway near the residence. They told the officers that six people – three adults and three juveniles – were still inside the building.

“Fire Department personnel battled the fire for approximately three hours, and remained on-scene for over twelve hours,” Juneau County Sheriff Andrew Zobal said in a statement. “Unfortunately, six family members perished as a result of the fire.”

The victims were identified as 66-year-old Steve Witte, a former pastor at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Green Bay, and five members of his family. The group was staying at the house, a vacation rental, for a family reunion.

The other victims were Lydia Witte and Charis Kuehl, both daughters of Steve Witte, as well as granddaughters Stella Kuehl, Lena Henselin and Merci Henselin. A number of other family members survived, including Hanna Henslin.

“The pain of losing six members of one family cannot be described with words,” said Mark Schroeder, the president of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. “The only thing that can begin to bring comfort in such a time of grievous loss are the words that God himself speaks to us. Those words remind us that these members of our extended WELS family are now resting in perfect joy and peace at the side of their Savior.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice and the State Fire Marshal are investigating the cause of the deadly fire, though investigators say it appears to have been an accident. The investigation is still ongoing.

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