Authorities, churches identify 6 family members killed in Wisconsin house fire

MAUSTON, Wis. (AP) — The six family members who died in a Wisconsin house fire were a former pastor, two of his daughters and three of his granddaughters, authorities and church officials said.

The Juneau County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release Tuesday that 66-year-old Steven Witte, 38-year-old Charis Kuehl and 35-year-old Lydia Witte were killed in the fire early Sunday morning in Necedah. Three children — ages 2, 5 and 8 — also died in the blaze. The sheriff’s office did not release their names.

Sheriff Andrew Zobal didn't immediately respond to a voicemail The Associated Press left at his office on Wednesday.

Staff at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Green Bay and Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod President Mark Schroeder said in a joint statement that Steve Witte served as a missionary in Thailand and as a pastor at Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church from 2001 to 2009. Lydia Witte and Charis Kuehl were his daughters and the three children were his granddaughters.

The Rev. Larry Schlomer, WELS World Missions Administrator, told WMTV-TV that the family was holding a get-together at the house when the fire broke out.

“It was such a tremendous loss, that many deaths within the same family,” Schlomer said.

The state fire marshal is assisting with the investigation into the fire but the sheriff’s office said in its release Tuesday that the fire appears to have been accidental.

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