Debris scattered around shell of mobile home that went up in flames in the early morning hours on Tuesday, Feb. 26. photo by Randy Jorgensen.
February 27, 2019IMLAY CITY — The community is mourning the loss of three young children in a mobile home fire in the early morning hours on Tuesday, Feb. 26, that leaves three other family members clinging to life in hospitals.
Based on information provided by Imlay City Police and the Imlay City Fire Department, emergency crews were dispatched to the 2000 block of S. Almont Ave. at 3:05 a.m.
The initial call made to Lapeer County Central Dispatch indicated that a mobile home was on fire and a person was screaming from the location.
Police Chief Scott Pike said Officer Sara Colin and Imlay City firefighters arrived at the scene concurrently to find the front half of the home engulfed in flames and a woman outside saying there were people trapped inside.
Imlay City Fire Lt. Neil Collins reported that firefighters were able to enter the structure and remove six people from the home.
Of those removed, a 3-year-old girl and two boys, ages 5 and 6, were determined to be deceased at the scene.
Those rescued included a 1-month-old girl, an 18-month-old boy, and the children's father, a 42-year-old Imlay City resident.
Chief Pike reported that the 29-year-old woman was identified as the man's wife and mother of the children. As of Tuesday afternoon, her condition was listed as 'stable.'
He said the three survivors were initially transported to Lapeer McLaren Region Hospital.
The man and 18-month-old boy were immediately transported to the Hurley Medical Center burn unit in Flint; while the one-month-old girl was transported to the University of Michigan Hospital. The man remains listed in 'critical' condition, as does the one-month-girl. An update on the 18-month-old boy was unavailable by press time.
"The investigation is ongoing and the Michigan State Police Department Fire Marshal's Office responded to assist," said Pike. "At this time (though unconfirmed) it appears the fire was the result of some type of heating device."
The names of the victims are being withheld pending notification of next of kin.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Pike told reporters that Officer Colin burned the back of her hand when she touched the trailer as she was assisting the woman on the scene. He also noted that the situation has been extremely difficult for firefighters and first responders. Counseling will be made available to Colin, Pike said, and a meeting was held Tuesday evening for firefighters and first responders to decompress.
Pike said the community is also deeply affected, and the department has received numerous inquiries from local residents seeking information on how they can help the family. Officer Joe DeLuca is in contact with the children's grandfather, and is also working with Walt Bargen of Lakestone Bank & Trust. An account for monetary donations to assist the victims is expected to be in place today (Wed., Feb. 27). Anyone wishing to donate to the account may do so by stopping at Lakestone Bank. Donations may also be made online at www.gofundme.com/help-with-any-expense. For more information on assisting the victims with clothing and/or household items, call DeLuca at 724-2345.
Fire Lt. Collins acknowledged the support of Attica Fire and Rescue, Almont Fire Dept. and First Responders, Imlay City Police Dept., Lapeer County Sheriff's Dept., Lapeer County EMS, Medstar EMS, Michigan State Police and Lapeer Central Dispatch for their assistance at the scene.
response to tragedy
The children's deaths has had a major impact on the school district too. According to a letter sent to Weston Elementary parents, the girl was in the school's early childhood program, the five year-old was in begindergarten and the six year-old was a kindergartener.
Supt. Dr. Stu Cameron said Imlay City School's crisis team assembled early on Tuesday and began to implement their support protocols.
"We met with the Weston faculty, who have been very deeply affected by the loss of the children, and have offered them support," Cameron said.
"We put extra measures in place to make sure that we could offer our students our best, and a day of learning."
Staff did not tell students about the tragedy directly but spent Tuesday making phone calls to parents in each of the affected classrooms. Cameron said school officials wanted to let those parents determine how their children find out about the death of a classmate.
"We worked to make sure that routines and school business remained as consistent and normal for our students as possible," Cameron said.
On Wednesday, teachers of the two oldest students planned to address the tragedy with their students, Cameron said.
"We will have district counselors available, should students require additional attention or support. We know adhering to routines and procedures is helpful and comforting to students and staff alike when dealing with the aftermath of a crisis," he added.
Cameron said parents of children who are affected by the incident are encouraged to be especially sensitive and supportive during this time. Parents of Weston students should feel free to contact the school if they would like their child to meet with a counselor.
"This is a horrible tragedy and our heartfelt sympathy goes out to the family. We're doing our best to provide the family assistance, and to attend to our students' needs here at school," he said.
Note: Catherine Minolli and Maria Brown contributed to this report.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.