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House fire in Three Oaks kills four, including retired firefighter

THREE OAKS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A West Michigan village is grieving after a house fire killed four people, including a retired firefighter.

The fire broke out early Thursday morning at a home in Three Oaks, in Berrien County--about 7 miles east of New Buffalo.

Neighbors tell Newschannel 3 that the people who lived in the home just across from the town post office were well known, and would sit out on the porch in nice weather.

When Three Oaks firefighters responded to the call for a fire on North Elm, they soon realized it was the home of one of their own.

A retired firefighter and his wife, along with another man and woman in their 20's were trapped inside and never made it out.

"At this point, the reality really hasn't set in so I'm sure it will come to us later and we'll come to grips with it," said Three Oaks Assistant Fire Chief Mike Young.

By the time firefighters arrived, flames were shooting out the windows of the house, with the fire most intense on the side and back of the house.

Fighting the fire was made even more challenging because of the intense cold.

Fire hydrants were frozen over and covered with snow.

"Everything pretty much freezes immediately, so it freezes on whatever you're spraying the water on, not to mention your gear and clothes and everything else, so it definitely poses quite a few challenges," Young said.

Neighbors brought brought fire crews food and hot drinks throughout the day, and word spread quickly in a small town of 1,800 about the four people who died in the fire.

Police aren't yet giving the names of the victims.

The fire is now being investigated by the State Fire Marshall's office.