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Fatal Hawley house fire blamed on accidental ignition of materials surrounding improperly installed electrical outlet

HAWLEY, Minn. – A fatal house fire here Sunday morning was caused by the accidental ignition of materials surrounding an improperly installed electrical outlet, Lt. Stephen Landsem of the Clay County Sheriff’s Department stated in a release Monday.

Authorities also identified the 15-year-old girl who died in the fire at 702 6th St. S. as Rylie Efterfield of Hawley.

Efterfield was one of four family members who were home about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, said Lt. Stephen Landsem of the Clay County Sheriff’s Department.

The other three family members in the home at the time, her mother and two of her younger brothers, escaped the fire, which Landsem said gutted the three-story building.

Landsem stated in the release that the Sheriff’s Department and Hawley Fire Department worked with the state fire marshal’s office to determine the cause of the fire.

He said a memorial to Efterfield was set up in the yard in front of the home in the hours since the fire destroyed it. Efterfield family members are staying with relatives in the area, he said.

“Obviously, they’re not doing well – it’s pretty tragic,” Landsem said.

Six area fire departments responded to the fire, which was put out about 8:15 a.m. Sunday.

The damage was so extensive local authorities called in a crew from Edina to re-brace and stabilize the structure so investigators could get in to work on it, Landsem said.

The home, which he described as “a tinderbox,” was originally an old funeral parlor before being converted into a single-family residence.

Landsem said there were smoke detectors in the home, but he did not know whether they were in working order.

In the release, he reminded homeowners to make sure all smoke detectors are working and that there is an unblocked egress window in every bedroom.

By Monday afternoon, community members had swung into action to collect donations of clothes, gas and grocery cards, and other needed items for the family, described as three boys in first, second and fourth grades, two girls in third and sixth grades, and their mother.

Organizers said the family’s most immediate needs were for overnight and personal care items, underclothes, toys and school supplies. Boys’ sizes 5-6 and 7-8 were most appropriate, along with girls’ sizes 7-8 and 10. Women’s clothes in size 14 and medium/large are also welcomed.

“The children are in dire need of everything,” said drive organizer Krystyne Frandson, who was just pulling up to the evening dropoff point for donated goods at the Hegland, Lysne and Solem Rural Lutheran Churches center in Hawley. Additional dropoff centers were opening soon in Glyndon, Ulen and Barnesville, she said.

Fellow organizer Dani Parenteau said that since so many people had already contributed, whatever the family can’t use will be sold at a community sale Sept. 7 at the Hawley Community Center, with the proceeds going the Bonham family.

“We’re all still in shock,” Parenteau said. “Everybody wants to know what to do to help.”

A monetary fund for the family has been established through the State Bank of Hawley. Donations can be made to: Bonham Benefit Fund, State Bank of Hawley, 416 6th St., P.O. Box 648, Hawley, Minn. 56549.

Emily Welker | Forum News Service

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