Foul play suspected after 4 dead in house fires in small Nebraska community

Barricades block off a portion of Elm Street in Laurel, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating a situation with multiple fatalities that occurred in Laurel on Thursday morning. Emergency personnel from the state patrol, Belden and the Cedar County Sheriff's Department were working in the area. (Riley Tolan-Keig/The Norfolk Daily News via AP)
Barricades block off a portion of Elm Street in Laurel, Neb., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. The Nebraska State Patrol is investigating a situation with multiple fatalities that occurred in Laurel on Thursday morning. Emergency personnel from the state patrol, Belden and the Cedar County Sheriff's Department were working in the area. (Riley Tolan-Keig/The Norfolk Daily News via AP)

Authorities in a small northeastern Nebraska community are investigating after four people were found dead early Thursday in two suspicious fires just blocks apart. 

The suspicious fires in Laurel, a city of about 1,000 people about 100 miles northwest of Omaha, caused police to recommend schools and nearby businesses go into lockdown. Authorities say foul play is suspected, though they did not release additional information. 

“Everybody knows everybody in this small community,” Cedar County Sheriff Larry Koranda said at a news conference Thursday. “It shakes everybody.” 

The first blaze happened around 3 a.m., Nebraska State Patrol Col. John Bolduc said at a news conference. A 911 caller reported an explosion at a home and when crews got there, they discovered a person dead inside. 

As crews were working to douse the blaze, a second fire was reported at a house three blocks away, Bolduc said. Investigators found three people dead inside. 

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