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Two children dead, one critical after Sheboygan Falls house fire: “No words to describe it”

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SHEBOYGAN FALLS -- A horrific tragedy in Sheboygan Falls -- officials say two children died after a house fire on Tuesday night, January 26th, and a third child is being treated for critical injuries.

Firefighters were called out to the home near 5th and Western Avenue around 9:00 p.m.

When crews arrived on scene, they made contact with a nine-year-old child who was able to escape the home safely after being alerted by an 11-year-old sibling.

Authorities say the 11-year-old child then re-entered the home in an attempted to locate two other children -- ages 10 and seven.

Sheboygan Falls house fire

Firefighters found heavy smoke pouring from the structure. They entered the home while attacking the fire -- and then, with the help of thermal imaging cameras, located all three children in an upstairs room.

"The smoke, oh God...the smoke was terrific," said Penny Ziemke, a bystander.  "They put that ladder up there. And then the one fireman handed the child to the other fireman on the ladder."

The seven-year-old died at St. Nicholas Hospital. The two other children were airlifted to Children's Hospital -- where one of them later died.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sheboygan Falls police released the names of the victims:

11-year-old Natalie Martin and seven-year-old Carter Maki passed away.

10-year-old Benjamin Martin remains in critical condition at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.

Nine-year-old Jenna Martin was able to get out of the home safely.

The parents of these children have been at Children's Hospital, at their 10-year-old child's bedside, since the fire.

Maki Family (GoFundMe page)

Maki Family (GoFundMe page)

Ryan Passini is an uncle of the children.

"The nine-year-old girl was told to get out, by Natalie, who's the oldest, to get out -- and then (Natalie) ran back in to try to get the rest of them out," said Passini.

Passini said nine-year-old Jenna was safe because Natalie was caring for her siblings while their parents, Chris and Kristi Maki, attended a Tuesday night church group meeting.

Passini said the family thanks all those who are making efforts to help.

"How do you go forward, from this? How do you lose half your family, and go forward?" ~Ryan Passini

"How do you go forward, from this? How do you lose half your family, and go forward?" asked Passini.

A Go Fund Me account has been created by family members of the victims. Thousands of dollars have been raised. CLICK HERE if you are interested in pitching in.

Vigil for victims of house fire in Sheboygan Falls

Vigil for victims of house fire in Sheboygan Falls

Members of Crossroads Community Church in Sheboygan gathered on Wednesday night to pray for the family. The family attends the church.

"There are no words to describe it. They are just numb. Completely beside themselves," Passini said of Chris and Kristi Maki.

Passini called the more than $50,000 raised for the family in just one day "amazing."

"I think it speaks volumes to the character of people," Passini said.

Steven Riffel, Director of Public Safety for Sheboygan Falls Police and Fire Departments

Steven Riffel, director of public safety for Sheboygan Falls Police and Fire Departments

Steven Riffel, director of public safety for Sheboygan Falls Police and Fire Departments said Wednesday he wanted to express deep sympathies to the family and neighbors in this instance.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them in this most difficult time," Riffel said.

The State Fire Marshal is now investigating the cause of the house fire. There has been no determination of the cause at this point. Officials said it's too early to speculate.

Officials did say there were active smoke detectors in the home.

Attorney General Brad Schimel released the following statement in the wake of this incident:

"My sympathy and prayers go out to their families and to the communities of Wauzeka and Sheboygan Falls, where the loss of these young people is deeply felt. The Wisconsin Department of Justice Office of the State Fire Marshal is investigating both of these tragic incidents, and I commend our investigators, many of whom are parents themselves, for doing this important and difficult work."

The School District of Sheboygan Falls issued the following statement about this incident:

"As a district we are saddened by this loss. Our thoughts are with the family. The district will continue to work to support our students, staff and the family."

Memorial for victims of house fire in Sheboygan Falls

Memorial for victims of house fire in Sheboygan Falls


Google Map for coordinates 43.729372 by -87.821663.


  • Joe

    What can anybody say…I’m speechless a d want to cry. I couldn’t imagine losing one of my kids, more or less, 4 of them. Now the poor sibling is without his brothers/sisters/family….why do these tragedies happen? I understand “everything happens for a reason”, but for real, does it? What the hell good can come from this? I feel so bad for the family, my condolences to all the family, loved ones, and community involved aND surrounding this horric travesty. Children are truly innocent and to see 4 lives taken so early and a family ripped apart and devastated, makes me cry and chills me to the core. RIP children…you are loved and will not forgotten.

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  • Matt

    Jesus didn’t bring sin into this world, humans did. Although, he does have a plan for redemption of us and this world. I suggest you read it – it can be found in the Bible. Actually pretty nice of him to ultimately save us from our giant screw-up I would say…

    • robert

      god brought sin into the world by creating a tree of good and evil AND creating a devil to tempt his human creations whom he loved so much-when I had toddlers we did everything possible to protect them FROM danger and evil and an all knowing god would do the same.. sorry- not buying those wolf tickets anymore-learned how to think and research for myself after being brainwashed by ignorant parents and pitiful family members who obviously had NO favor or power in so-called god. I remember being little and being traumatized by 6 caskets of siblings who died in a fire- lined up in church-couldn’t understand how an omnipresent,omnipotent being would allow this but now that I’m much older -I can see clearly. Just like when the 9 got shot up in church last year-same type of situation-no protection-not even in god’s house!! LOL fairytales are not 4 me anymore’ I’m all grown up

  • Lashonda

    Back in the day yes kids were left alone. but hellooo haven’t you’ve seen how this world has changed? forget a fire….what about a home invasion? a kid choking??? anything. these people truly screwed up. now they want money donated to cover their mistake. no sorry I wont donate a dime.

  • JennJenn

    Why are the parents even in question? Sheboygan Red Cross and Wisconsin Red Cross offer babysitting classes to kids starting at the age of 11. Wisconsin law states that a child that is 11 and has certification can legally be left home to babysit other children. Not to mention all of the children were older kids, it was bed time, they were most likely all familiar with the rules in their own home, etc. ALSO, Sheboygan Falls is not Milwaukee or a larger city where people are being shot and murdered daily and more children die annually in the presence of their own parents than do children in Sheboygan Falls without parental supervision in a decade. Reading these news blogs really tosses out my hope for humanity…. Back to my cave.

  • SomeoneWhoCares

    Big round of applause *eye roll* to the people like Lashonda,Karen and Susan who feel the need to crucify this family. Must be nice to be absolutely perfect in everything you do,right? How about instead of bashing these parents,you offer your condolences on the loss of their two children and pray this little boy makes it!

  • Molly

    Interesting how my last comment and some others are not listed when it did not contain offensive language . Regardless we cannot assume the courageous 11 year old had the proper certification to watch over children. Children do tend to act up when other children are watching them , to sometimes push the limits and get into trouble . Not to undermine that they can and do act up when adults are present . It can be hard work for an able adult to settle one , two , let alone 3 children to bed. Giving that responsibility to an 11 year old is beyond my comprehension. Not knowing the cause of fire , if there were an adult present it would have most likely helped in the rescue effort as things happened so fast as it did.
    Learning from this we should all brush up on having a clear plan as to what to do if there’s a fire. And if you plan on having your kids watch other kids consider going over some basic safety guidelines.

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