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Father, who lost 3 children in ND fire, is in Twin Cities burn unit

Three children died in at mobile home fire at 420 17th Ave. in Carrington, N.D, early Saturday morning, officials said. The parents and another man survived the fire. Katie Fairbanks / Forum News Service

CARRINGTON, N.D.—The father is in a Twin Cities burn unit with serious injuries, while the mother and another survivor have been treated and released after a tragic mobile home fire Saturday took the lives of three east-central North Dakota children.

There were three adults and three children in the home when the fire started in a front bedroom.

The father, Brandon Tufte, 32, was first taken to CHI St. Alexius Health Carrington Medical Center and then airlifted to the Twin Cities.

His condition was unknown Sunday night, said Carrington police Sgt. Nathan Kruse, but he was suffering from severe burns and cuts.

His wife, Dawn, 31, was taken to the Carrington hospital and treated and released as well as the couple's roommate, Garrett Phillips, 29.

The Tuftes' three children who died were Alex, 11, Melody, 8, and Spencer, 7.

Kruse said they weren't releasing many other details about the fire to "give the family time to get through this."

"We are a small community, and this isn't easy," Kruse said.

The police sergeant was amazed at how a GoFundMe page had raised more than $51,000 for the family only a day after fire. The page can be found at http://bit.ly/2lW6fb8.

Carrington, with its approximate 2,000 residents, is about 40 miles north of Jamestown.

The cause of the fire hasn't been determined, and the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the state fire marshal are investigating.

Kruse said the investigators have completed their on-scene work and have left.

The burned home at 420 17th Ave. N in Westside Trailer Court was a total loss, Carrington Fire Chief Ken Wangen said Saturday.

When his volunteer firefighters arrived about 4:30 a.m. Saturday, he said the home was fully engulfed in flames.

Firefighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading because the first truck got water on the blaze right away. The last truck returned to the fire station at 12:20 p.m., almost eight hours after first arriving at the fire, he said.

Twenty to 24 Carrington and New Rockford firefighters assisted in putting out the fire, Wangen said. Six Carrington firefighters who were at the State Fire School in Minot arrived about 9 a.m. and took over, which allowed firefighters who had been there since 4:30 a.m. to return to the station, he said.

The American Red Cross responded to the fire, and helped survivors with their immediate needs, said Gretchen Hjelmstad, regional communications officer. Since the home was a total loss, the Red Cross provided comfort kits to the survivors and offered them emergency shelter, she said.

On Saturday, Brittany Overby, who lives two trailers from the burned home, said she could see the fire from her kitchen window. She and other neighbors were evacuated while firefighters fought the blaze.

Overby said she is proud of the fire department for keeping the fire contained.

Katie Fairbanks contributed to this report

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