STERLING, NE — A southeast Nebraska house is a total loss after a fire Sunday evening.

Sterling Volunteer Fire Department responded to reports of a fire near the intersection of Washington St. and Sterling Ave. around 4:15 PM. Fire Chief Jason Ebbers says the house was already fully engulfed and turbulent black smoke was coming from it.

Extremely cold temperatures - as low as -3 degrees - made it harder to fight the blaze. Ebbers says it was hard to reach certain areas of the house because the water would get too cold too fast. Firefighters were on scene until 4:30 Monday morning to make sure all hot spots were extinguished.

There was nobody at the house at the time of the fire. It was in the process of being remodeled. Ebbers says the exterior walls are still standing but the interior is completely destroyed. The top story of the house collapsed into the main floor.

Adams Rural Fire provided mutual aid. Ebbers commended all responders for persevering through the cold to fight the fire. He thanked neighbors for bringing hot food, coffee and letting firefighters warm up in a nearby garage.

The Nebraska State Fire Marshal is still investigating the cause.