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Deadly House Fire That Claimed the Lives of Mom and 4 Kids Deemed Murder-Suicide

Ferguson, Mo. police say Bernadine “Birdie” Pruessner killed her children, aged 2, 5 and 9

<p>Ferguson Police Department</p> Deadly Ferguson house fire deemed murder-suicide

Ferguson Police Department

Deadly Ferguson house fire deemed murder-suicide

A deadly fire in Ferguson, Mo., that claimed the lives of a mother and her four children has been ruled a murder-suicide, according the St. Louis County Police Department.

"Preliminary investigation has revealed this to be a murder/suicide," the police department told PEOPLE via statement. "It is believed that Bernadine intentionally set a mattress on fire as that was the point of origin for the fire. A note was also left stating Bernadine’s intentions to take her life and the lives of her children."

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Police responded to the fatal house fire around 4:23 a.m. on Monday in Ferguson, a city located just outside of St. Louis, a spokesperson for the St. Louis County Police Department told PEOPLE. After officers arrived on the scene, fire personnel informed them that four people had been found deceased in the home. Shortly after, a fifth victim was located.

The victims were identified by police as Bernadine Pruessner, 39; Ivy Pruessner, 9; Ellie Pruessner, 9; Jackson Spader; 6; and Millie Spader, 2. All resided in the 500 block of N. Clay Avenue in Ferguson. Bernadine was the mother of all four children.

<p>Ferguson Police Department/Facebook</p> Deadly Ferguson house fire deemed murder-suicide

Ferguson Police Department/Facebook

Deadly Ferguson house fire deemed murder-suicide

The circumstances of the fire, which also claimed the lives of the family’s three dogs, were previously deemed "suspicious," authorities told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and local outlet KTVI.

Jared Spader, the father of Jackson and Millie, released a statement Wednesday afternoon on behalf of himself and David Pruessner, the father of Ellie and Ivy, per KSDK.

"What I would want everyone to know about my two wonderful children is they are the greatest gift that a father could ever ask for. Jackson was the most incredible older brother, kind, intuitive and gentle. He loved his sisters, being outside, sports, art and he was always so in tune with the needs of others. Millie was a funny, charismatic, sweet, and kind little sister who brightened every moment of every day for all of us," the statement read.

Related: 4 Children Under the Age of 5 and 28-Year-Old Man Killed in West Virginia House Fire

"They were the two most beautiful souls that a father could ask for, and they were a gift to our lives in every way," it continued. "As Dads right now we have to focus on honoring the four beautiful lives and we plan to do that together. Our thanks go out to the community, people we know, and many we have never even met, who have shown us incredible amounts of support. We will continue to need it."

Ferguson police chief Troy Doyle said he and other first responders were "profoundly affected" by the fire.

Related: Kimora Lee Simmons Says 'House Caught Fire,' Thanks Fire Department Who 'Quite Possibly Saved Our Lives'

"The first responders met with a situation that no training manual could ever prepare them for," Doyle posted on the Ferguson Police Departmen's Facebook page. "It was a stark reminder of the unseen battles some of our neighbors are fighting and the critical need for empathy, compassion, and support from all of us. This incident has profoundly affected those who served that day, showcasing the vulnerability we all share as human beings."

"This moment of sorrow calls us to band together like never before. It’s a time to lean on one another, to listen with open hearts, and to offer a shoulder or an ear to those in need. We’re reminded that the strength of our community lies in our unity and our willingness to support each other through the darkest times," Doyle continued.

<p>Ferguson Police Department/Facebook</p> Deadly Ferguson house fire deemed murder-suicide

Ferguson Police Department/Facebook

Deadly Ferguson house fire deemed murder-suicide

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"As Chief of Police, I’m committed to nurturing an environment where understanding and support are paramount, ensuring our officers are not just responders but compassionate members of the community ready to extend a helping hand. We’re dedicated to enhancing mental health resources and ensuring everyone knows they’re not alone," he concluded.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or go to 988lifeline.org.

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Read the original article on People.