UPDATED: Law enforcement officials changed updated the ages of the children killed in this morning's fire. They now say the five range from 6 to 11 years old.
SPEARFISH — Five children have now been confirmed dead following an early Saturday morning house fire in Spearfish.
Those children, ages 6 to 9 years old were from multiple communities.
At 4:23 a.m., dispatchers received a report of the fire at 1135 Ames St.
Upon firefighters’ arrival, the house was fully engulfed in flames.
“Firefighters tried to make entry when the neighbors and family members told them there were people trapped inside,” said Spearfish Fire Chief Mark Sachara. “They did what they could, but with the volume of fire, there was just noway they could get in to perform a search.”
The cause of the fire and the point of origin are under investigation.
Sachara said some of the children were found in the upstairs of the two-story house, but he couldn’t confirm all were found there.
He also said that some adults tried to rescue the children and were taken to Spearfish Regional Hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation. He was not sure if any children were taken to the hospital.
Lt. Boyd Dean, with the Spearfish Police Department, said officials are still determining the identity of the victims and who is from Spearfish and other communities.
“To our knowledge all people have been accounted for,” Sachara said. “But with the possibility that this was a sleepover or some kind of party, I can’t rule out that when we do a more extensive search, we won’t find any more victims.
“The house is very much compromised by the fire, so it will be very difficult for us to conduct what we call overhaul to put out remaining hot spots without worry of the roof and/or the second story collapsing more than it already has,” he added.
Sachara said it took firefighters an hour to 90 minutes to knock down the bulk of the blaze.
“It was a stubborn fire,” he said. “It was difficult to get to because the roof already started to collapse in the center. We just couldn’t put firefighters inside. We had our aerial ladder truck deployed, so we could get water from above and into the structure.”
Using that ladder truck along with other fire trucks lowered the water pressure, but not to an extent that it compromised their ability to extinguish the fire, he said.
“As we’ve learned who the family members were, we’ve been providing them every resource we can. The sheriff’s office chaplain corps has been invaluable,” Dean said.
The Red Cross is on scene to provide assistance to the families involved.
West Elementary School Principal Nick Gottlob said one victim attended West Elementary and one attended Creekside Elementary School. He said he would personally contact the families of students who were in the same classroom as the victim at West Elementary, and Principal Dan Olson would likely do the same for Creekside students. Additionally, he said, all West and Creekside parents would likely receive a School Reach phone call notifying them of the incident.
Gottlob said counseling services would be available for students and adults Monday.
“Someone once said from the horror of tragedy comes the best of humanity. And what we’ve seen this morning is an unspeakable horror but some extreme professionalism from our law enforcement, absolutely from our firefighters and our medical personnel,” Dean said. “We’ve already been receiving an out pouring of community support and we ask that everyone keep these families in their prayers, and we are going to work with these families and these first responders to make sure we all get through it.”
Members of the Spearfish Fire Department, Spearfish Police Department, Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office, local medical personnel, South Dakota Highway Patrol, Red Cross and state fire marshals’ office have responded.