UPDATE: Victims Identified in Fatal Hibbing Fire, Another Life Claimed from Injuries
The Fire Broke Out Tuesday, December 26, 2017 Shortly After 1:00 a.m.
UPDATE: Authorities have identified the victims as 63-year-old Patricia Lynn Gillitzer, 67-year-old Steven Jon Gillitzer, and their grandson 9-year-old Todd Gillizter Jr., their 3-year-old grandson Isaiah was being treated for injuries at HCMC has reportedly died from his injuries.
According to a press release from the Hibbing Fire Department, Steven Gillitzer was a retired Hibbing Fire Captain and served on the force for 24 1/2 years before retiring in December of 2000.
Captain Gillitzer was alerted to the fire in the night and rushed into action to save his family. His 8-year-old grandson Jonathan recalled to police that his grandfather awoke him in the middle night and remembers being unable to see anything. He says his grandfather threw him out the front door to safety and then retreated into the house to save the others, but never emerged from the structure.
Jonathan survived the fire with minor injuries.
The fire claimed a total of four lives.
HIBBING, Minn. – The Hibbing Fire Department says it’s a heavy day for them. They were dispatched to a house on fire with people trapped inside.
At about 1:30 Tuesday morning, the Hibbing Fire Department entered a house engulfed in flames on East 42nd Street.
They removed four victims from the building.
“From the time that we got the call to the time all four victims were out of the building was about eight minutes,” said Hibbing Fire Chief Erik Jankila.
Two adults were pronounced dead on arrival.
Two children were airlifted to a hospital. One of those children did not survive.
A third child escaped from the house by the time fire crews had arrived and was treated for non-life threatening injuries.
“We do have one child that is at Hennepin County Medical Center in critical condition and one juvenile that is pending release from the hospital probably yet today,” said Jankila.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. That’s expected to take longer than usual.
“Starting to dismantle a fire scene piece by piece when it’s twenty below zero is extremely difficult so it takes a lot longer to get to the root cause of some of these things just through the nature of the weather,” said Jankila.
The sub zero temperatures made it harder for the firefighters to contain and put out the flames.
“Our gear’s extremely heavy, when you go inside and spray water, it gets soaking wet and when you come out and it’s twenty five below zero at two thirty in the morning, everything freezes rock solid,” said Jankila.
Despite the conditions, the fire chief said his department did everything they could to save the victims.
“They have a choice: Rescue people or put the fire out, and they chose rescue people, so by the time we get the adequate amount of resources to start fighting that fire, half an hour has gone by, so a significant increase in fire,” said Jankila.
A fundraiser has been set up online for the victims, you can find that here.