An 11-year-old who ran back into a burning home in an attempt to save family members died along with a 7-year-old sibling in a Sheboygan Falls fire on Tuesday.

A third 10-year-old sibling is in critical condition at this time.

A fourth 9-year-old sibling was able to escape the home after being awoken by the 11-year-old yelling “fire, fire,” according to Sheboygan Falls Public Safety Director Steven Riffel. The 9-year-old went to the home of a neighbor, who called 911 at approximately 9 p.m. Tuesday.

“Very preliminary information is that the 11-year-old was able to wake the 9-year-old and give a warning to flee the residence. The 9-year-old did, believing the others were following,” Riffel said. “The 11-year-old returned to assist the other two still upstairs, but none were able to flee the home.”

Police officers and firefighters arrived within minutes to find thick smoke coming from the windows, Riffel said. Two police officers first attempted to enter the home, but were turned back by the smoke. One was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation, according to Riffel.

Firefighters entered the home, and with hampered visibility because of heavy smoke and flames, used thermo-imaging cameras to locate and remove three children from the home, Riffel said.

“They reported very heavy smoke with near-zero visibility and active fire in the house,” Riffel said. “Firefighters were able to locate three children in the home, including the 11-year-old, in upstairs rooms.”

The children were transferred to St. Nicholas Hospital in Sheboygan, where the 7-year-old died. The 11-year-old and 10-year-old were transferred to Children’s Hospital in Wauwatosa, Riffel said. The 11-year-old has died and it was initially reported that the 10-year-old had also passed. Deputy Police Chief Steven Ross said Wednesday afternoon that while the department received two credible reports this morning that the 10-year-old had passed, they just talked to family members who say that child is still alive, but in critical condition.

The parents were not home at the time of the fire. Riffel said unconfirmed reports indicate the parents may have been at a bible study.

Smoke alarms were working in the home at the time of the fire, Riffel noted.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the State Fire Marshal and the Sheboygan County Fire Investigation Unit. Fire officials withheld additional information about the children, including names, pending notification of family members.

“I, along with the members of the Sheboygan Falls fire and police departments, as well as the Sheboygan Falls community as a whole, wish to express our deepest sympathy to the family, friends and neighbors that this incident has impacted so tragically,” Riffel said. “Our sincere thoughts and prayers are with them in this most difficult time.”

The response to the fire was expedited Tuesday as a result of volunteer firefighters of the Sheboygan Falls Fire Department who happened to be at the fire station working on other tasks when the call came in, Riffel said.

“We were lucky enough to have an engine contingent on staff (at the fire department) working on other things that was able to go,” he said. “We were there within minutes, and that is not an exaggeration.”

Riffel said the fire was also taxing emotionally and physically on firefighters in the community.

“I want to personally thank the firefighters that responded to this difficult call. In a community such as ours, the homes they respond to are not just part of the job, but are lived in by family, friends and neighbors,” he said. “It is extremely difficult, both mentally and physically, to place yourself in harm’s way, but they do it in hopes of making a difference.”

The fire was the second in Sheboygan County Tuesday. Firefighters responded to another house fire in the city of Sheboygan shortly before 7 p.m. Tuesday. That fire caused $100,000 worth of damage, but resulted in no injuries. Riffel said he did not believe the response to that earlier fire negatively impacted neighboring fire departments’ ability to respond to the Sheboygan Falls fire.

“We had a number of departments here last night, which we needed,” he said. “We had the ability to have the help we needed.”

Firefighters from the town of Sheboygan Falls, town of Sheboygan, Haven, Kohler, Cedar Grove, town of Wilson Rehab Unit, Orange Cross, and city of Sheboygan Ambulance responded to the Sheboygan Falls fire. Kohler also assisted the city of Sheboygan firefighting efforts.