PIERCE, Neb. -- Three school-aged children are among those killed after fire broke out early Saturday at a home in rural northeast Nebraska.

A 17-, 15-, and 12-year-old were pronounced dead at the scene. 

Authorities said the Pierce County Attorney has ordered an autopsy to determine the cause of death of the deceased. 

Initial units were called to a house in the 200 block of Nebraska Street just after 3:30 a.m. Responding agencies included Pierce Fire Department, Plainview Fire Department, Hadar Fire Department, Osmond Fire Department, Norfolk Fire Division, Pierce County Sheriff's Office, Pierce Police Department, Pierce County Attorney's Office, and the Nebraska State Fire Marshal Agency. 

Firefighters remained on the scene deep into the morning, with smoke still coming from the structure by daybreak.

Three occupants of the six were able to self-evacuate, with two reporting no injuries and one being transported to the local hospital and later being released. 

The State Fire Marshal investigators determined the fire was accidental and caused by a wood-burning stove.

Pierce Public Schools said it would be open today in support of students, stating in a Facebook post. Several local businesses offered support via social media and by setting up fundraisers.

"Due to a tragedy that occurred last night and the loss of Pierce High and Pierce elementary students, the high school will be open from 1:00-3:00 today for 7-12 grade students needing extra support. The elementary school will be open at the same time for students in grades K-6. Other pertinent information will be emailed to parents at a later time," the post read.

State Sen. Mike Flood of Norfolk, whose district includes Pierce, said in a statement that the fire was an “unspeakable tragedy.”

“Today’s news is heartbreaking and hard to understand, but I know the community spirit of Pierce is resilient, may it comfort this family and our region,” Flood said.

Pierce Fire and Rescue shared a Facebook post Saturday night expressing gratitude to the community of Pierce, as well as those surrounding Pierce, for the support it says it received throughout the day.

"Thank you to the community for all of the texts and phone calls that you have given us," the post read. "We are truly thankful for every single hug, prayer, and thought today. Please continue to hold us in your prayers."


Mike Flood is the founder and an owner of Flood Communications and News Channel Nebraska. Information and quotes received from him for this story were originally reported by the Associated Press.