Emergency vehicles were clogging the South St. Paul street as Chanry Soeng arrived home after working the second shift at a Lakeville packaging plant.
When she realized they were at her house, she sprinted toward the door, demanding to see her children.
First responders restrained her, then delivered terrible news: her husband, Soeun Sem, 60, and the couple’s youngest son, 2-year-old Eric, had died in the fire. Their older boy, 5-year-old Alexander, had been taken to Regions Hospital in St. Paul, but would not survive the night.
An investigation would show that the Oct. 13 blaze began in the garage, where propane cooking equipment often was used to prepare food. Smoke inhalation was ruled the cause of death.
It marked the second multiple-fatality house fire in the Twin Cities area that month, coming only one week after three children under age 7 died in north Minneapolis. Unattended cooking and heating, the causes linked to both incidents, are the leading culprits for residential fires in Minnesota. Fire-related deaths have spiked this year, claiming 52 Minnesotans, compared with 44 in 2014, according to data from the state fire marshal.