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‘That was the last time I got to see them’: Father reflects after losing children to house fire

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MINONG, WI-- Mark Denhartog will always remember his 39th birthday party as the last time he was with his two youngest children.

"They said good-bye. I said good-bye. Then I walked out the door. That was the last time I got to see them. I got to say I love you and good-bye," said Denhartog.

Denhartog then left to take care of his mother several miles away.

Early Saturday morning, he got a text from his 15-year-old daughter that smoke was inside the house.

He raced home to a terrifying sight and devastating news.

"They said Thatcher and Phoebe are still in the house. I went running. The first responder there cut me off and grabbed me before I could just run through the flames of the house. He said you can't do anything it's too late," said Denhartog.

Along with kids, the family dog was left behind as well.

"So the dog went to them and fought through the fire to get to them," said Denhartog.

Denhartog said his daughter Phoebe was a tomboy who loved being outside and spending time with animals.

"She was the queen of tall tales. She would tell you a story you know was wrong, but you cant call her out because she'd get mad at you. She'd say this story is true," Denhartog said.

His son Thatcher was a fan of baseball and the Chicago Cubs and had a heart of gold.

"He was a defender of right. He didn't like people mistreating other people regardless of who it was," said Denhartog.

Amid his grief, Denhartog said he's been lifted by his community, with a lot of support being given to a GoFundMe.

Some of the donations will be used to honor his children.

"What we have decided to do is where the bedroom was we want to put a gazebo there as a monument to our children," said Denhartog.

The father said while the pain is fresh, he has comfort knowing that the siblings were together.

"I found a picture on my phone. They were all on the floor all three of them. I look at that picture. That is how I want to remember them, together, every weekend they were inseparable and that is just good piece of mind," Denhartog said.

It's still not clear how the fire started.

If you would like to help the family, click here.

John Cardinale

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