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Two Lakefield girls die in house fire

LAKEFIELD -- The community of Lakefield is mourning the loss of two 9-year-old girls who died in a Saturday morning house fire in this small, Jackson County community.

Taylor Schmucker and Krystal Schwartzenberger were discovered in a second-floor bedroom by Lakefield firefighters after being called to the home at 305 S. Griffin St., at 10:28 a.m. They were transported via Lakefield Ambulance to the Jackson Medical Center, where medical personnel tried unsuccessfully to revive them.

The girls were students at Pleasantview Elementary school in Lakefield -- one was a second-grader and the other was a fourth-grader, according to the school's principal, Sam Marek. Counseling sessions will be offered at the school today and throughout the week for students and staff, he said.

A press release issued by the Jackson County Sheriff's Office Sunday afternoon said the fire was believed to have started in a bedroom on the main floor of the house, where two smaller children were playing with a lighter. The fire spread quickly through the home, causing extensive damage.

Firefighters from the Lakefield and Okabena fire departments were able to get the fire under control in approximately one hour. Also responding to the scene were the Lakefield Police Department and the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. The fire remains under investigation by local authorities and the Minnesota Fire Marshal's Office.

Monetary donations are being accepted for the families involved and may be dropped off or sent to any of Lakefield's three banks: Bank of the West, Lakefield Savings Bank or the First National Bank of Lakefield.