Investigators release 2 possible causes of fatal Spearfish house fire

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SPEARFISH, S.D. -

The latest on the Spearfish house fire, in which five children were killed.


Photos Courtesy David Cremean


April 20

Investigators have released a point of origin for the fire, but the ignition source could not be determined.

The fire started within the southeast corner of the east facing porch of the home. According to the Spearfish Police Department, a 20 gallon metal trash receptacle used for ash and hot coal collection from the interior wood burning fireplace was located in this area. Police released the following statement on their discoveries:

"This is also an area where cigarette smoking materials were disposed of by the occupants of the east living unit. There were no electrical wiring or appliances located in this area. The ignition source of the fire could not be accurately determined due to the presence of two separate possible ignition sources within the area of origin (discarded smoking material or ash/hot coals from the interior fire place)."

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April 12

The investigation into this fire continued during the past week. On April 7, additional investigation was done, and imaging of the scene was conducted using computer imaging equipment.

READ MORE: Memorial service mourns five children lost in Spearfish house fire

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April 7

Forensic medical examinations were completed Wednesday on all five victims. The identity of all victims was positively confirmed as written below.

The office of Lawrence County Coroner Marty Goetsch indicated the cause of death as smoke inhalation.

The investigation into the fire continues.

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April 3

The Spearfish Police Department has released the identities of the five children lost in the April 1 fire. 

The victims are presumed to be: Phibie Joyce Moyer, age 6; Clinton James Johnson, age 7; Rhylin Zane Gee, age 9; Justice Lillian Gene Roden, age 9; Tanlynn Crystal Rain Roden, age 11.

READ MORE: Spearfish residents donating to families affected by fatal house fire

The identities will have a final verification pending forensic medical examinations. 

Investigators believe all five victims were together in an upstairs bedroom at the time of the fire. Several adult victims and at least one juvenile - age 13 - were also believed to be present in the home. Some were given medical treatment and released.

The origin of the fire is still undetermined. Mike Erickson with the South Dakota State Fire Marshal's Office is the primary investigator.

A candlelight vigil has been planed for April 4 at 7 p.m. at the location of the fire near the intersection of Ames and Oliver Streets. Parking will be available in the Lyle Hare Stadium lot on St. Joseph Street and at the Donald Young Center. Spearfish Police Lt. Boyd Dean said in a statement that much of the surrounding area will be barricaded off to protect pedestrians. The public is asked to be respectful of the properties of others near the vigil.

As for financial donations and the offerings of good and services, the United Methodist Church in Spearfish will be the drop off point. Pastor McKirdy and others from the church will coordinate donation efforts. The church is located at 845 North 5th Street. The public can also call 605-642-3457 or email office@spearfishhumc.org.

READ MORE: RCFD announces donation site for Spearfish fire victims

There are also GoFundMe pages helping raise money for the families. A goal is set at $45,000 for the Wilson-Roden and Tate family. Another couple affected is trying to raise $4,000. For one girl lost, another page is set up with a goal of $10,000. 

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April 1, 11:39 a.m.

Officials now confirm five children died in the early morning fire in Spearfish at 1139 Ames Ave. In addition, a number of adults who attempted to save the children were taken to the hospital. The extent of their injuries were not initially known.

At a late morning news conference, fire officials said the large two-story house was fully engulfed in flames when they arrived shortly after 4:30 Saturday morning.

It took firefighters an hour to an hour-and-a-half to put the stubborn fire out. Because the roof had started to collapse, they were unable to put firefighters into the building, instead using a ladder truck to put water on the blaze.

The investigation and recovery efforts are continuing at this time. NewsCenter1 continues to cover the story and will update as new information becomes available.

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9:52 a.m.

Spearfish fire investigators are trying to determine the cause of an early morning house fire that killed four people.


Photo Courtesy: Spearfish Fire Department

Firefighters were called to a multi-dwelling home at the intersection of Ames and Oliver Streets shortly before 4:30 Saturday morning. There, they found the house fully engulfed in flames.

The Spearfish fire and police departments will hold a late morning news conference. NewsCenter1 is covering the story and will update as new information becomes available.


CORRECTION: The story has been updated to reflect the correct spelling and age for Rhylin Zane Gee

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