UPDATE: The coroner’s office has identified the victims.
DELAWARE COUNTY, Ind. – Emergency crews responded to a deadly fire in Delaware County early Thursday morning.
Dispatchers said the call came in around 1:30 a.m. at a home located at 800 W. and State Road 332—that’s about a mile east of I-69.
Gaston firefighters say they could see the smoke and flames billowing for miles while en route to the fire that initially came in as a business call.
“It was really…the fire was really rolling at that time, several fire trucks, ambulance, a whole crew of people here working to put it out,” said neighbor Dave Coy.
Investigators initially said one person died, but the coroner’s office later clarified that three people–two women and a man–were killed. As well as a cat and a dog. Delaware County County Coroner, Rick Howell confirms a 17-year-old student at Wes-Del High School and her grandparents perished in the fire.
“They’ve lived there longer than anyone of us in the neighborhood here. Been around a long time, good people. It’s just terrible knowing I’m not going to see them anymore, it’s tough,” said Coy.
Fire officials were not able to locate those inside the home until hours after the fire began. They said it took more than four hours to get the fire under control after calling backup from Delaware County and surrounding areas.
“As we were getting ready to make entry the house flashed over and the rest of the house that wasn’t on fire, became on fire. Fire crews were chased back out it turned into a defensive fire at that time,” said Gaston Assistant Fire Chief, Andrew Storie.
Kyle Mealy, Superintendent for Wes-Del Community Schools, issued a statement about the fire.
Today the Wes-Del School Community was informed of the tragic passing of a Warrior high school student in an early morning house fire. The Wes-Del and Gaston community collectively mourn the loss of this student, as well as the other two family members involvd.
At this time, no official names have been released, therefore no additional information concerning the student will be released without the consent of the immediate family.
School counselors and administrators were available throughout the day for any student or staff member in need of grief counseling. Thursday, December 19 was the final student day before winter break, but school counselors and administrators will be available for Warrior students on Friday, December 20, 2019 from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Firefighters say the frigid temperatures made it harder to battle the flames after an engine froze.
Cadaver dogs were summoned to the scene. Crews said they believe the home was being heated by a wood stove and a gas stove fueled by a propane tank and were not sure if they had any smoke detectors.
Fire officials say if you use a wood-burning stove or chimney make sure you clean out the cresol because the build-up can cause fires. They also recommend using newer space heaters and plugging them into a power strip that’s not overloaded.
The state fire marshal is assisting with the investigation. Autopsies on the victims are scheduled for Friday.