4 bodies removed from Lockwood mobile home that caught fire

2013-04-18T05:19:00Z 2014-07-01T10:40:08Z 4 bodies removed from Lockwood mobile home that caught fireBy ZACH BENOIT zbenoit@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

5:30 p.m.: Four bodies have been removed from a mobile home in Lockwood, where a fire burned early Thursday, according to Yellowstone County Sheriff's Capt. Bill Michaelis.

Autopsies are planned for Friday, and the victims' names will not be released until families are notified, he said.

The bodies were taken away in vans from the Cremation and Funeral Gallery.

Deputies continue to investigate at the home at 206 Hemlock Drive and the scene will be secured overnight, he said.

5 p.m.: Bodies are being removed from the mobile home at 206 Hemlock Drive. Officials have met with victims' relatives and friends who have gathered during the day. Funeral home vans have arrived.

4 p.m.: Nearly 12 hours after a responding to a mobile home fire in Lockwood, investigators are still searching for answers at 206 Hemlock Drive.

The victims' relatives and friends, at times numbering two dozen,  have stood outside the hazard-taped perimeter since Thursday morning waiting for answers. At times, the parked of cars of friends and relatives have stretched more 50 yards south down normally quiet tree-lined Hemlock Drive.

Yellowstone County sheriffs deputies have not said who the victims were or how many victims there are. The bodies of the victims remain inside the home.

There is still no explanation for how the victims died. the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, joined the investigation this afternoon.

1 p.m.: Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office Capt. Bill Michaelis confirmed on Thursday afternoon that several bodies were found inside a Lockwood mobile home burned by fire on Thursday morning.

He said at the scene that when firefighters responded, they found people inside the mobile home at 206 Hemlock Drive.

"The people that are inside are deceased," he said.

He said he wasn't able to provide further details, including how many people died, their names or how they died.

11:20 a.m.: The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office secured a search warrant for a Lockwood mobile home that caught fire on Monday morning and is continuing with the investigation.

The fire's cause was not immediately available.

Sheriff Mike Linder said he hadn't yet been briefed of the investigation's findings but that deputies were interviewing people at the fire scene and working to determine a cause.

He said information on possible occupants or injuries wouldn't be released until this afternoon, after he speaks with investigators.

8:35 a.m.: Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said investigators are waiting on a search warrant before entering a trailer home that caught fire in Lockwood on Thursday morning.

He expected the warrant to be complete soon.

Information on any occupants or possible victims wasn't available and officials are still trying to determine who lives in the mobile home.

Linder said that when investigators are able to enter the house, at 206 Hemlock Drive, he'd be able to provide more information.

"We're just waiting on that search warrant to go into the house," he said. "We'll treat it like a crime scene until we know differently."

It's standard sheriff's office procedure to treat fires as such, although Linder said he hasn't seen or heard any indications that the fire is suspicious.

INITIAL REPORT: The Yellowstone County Sheriff's Office, with help from Lockwood fire officials, is investigating a fire that started in mobile home on Thursday morning.

While firefighters were able to douse the fire at 206 Hemlock Drive within a few minutes of arriving at about 4:15 a.m., investigators from Lockwood Fire and Rescue and the sheriff's office remained at the home hours later.

Lockwood Fire Chief Bill Rash said the fire was reported at 4:11 a.m. and two engines arrived seven minutes later. Smoke and flames were coming from the building's north side, which appears to be the kitchen area.

Fire crews managed to get inside the home and had the flames under control within 10 minutes, Rash said.

"They went in and were able to stage an interior offensive," he said.

Rash said the fire caused serious damage to the interior of the home. Details of its occupants and any possible injuries were not known.

"The structure sustained extensive damage and there were no firefighter injuries," he said in an 8:20 a.m. news release. "At the time of this press release, the identities of the tenants/owner or insurance information was not available."

Rash said the early investigation didn't reveal anything suspicious but that it's still very early in the process. He referred further questions to Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder.

Linder could not be reached immediately for comment.

Before fire crews arrived, a pair of neighbors tried to get into the home to see if anybody was inside.

Troy Donges lives across the street and said that a man, possibly in his early 30s, lives in the house and that he thinks a woman and several children had moved out earlier this month.

Donges' son was up listening to music when he heard a loud bang and thought an animal had hit the side of their home. He looked out the window, saw flames and woke up his dad.

"When I saw the flames, I ran outside," he said. "There used to be a family that lived there and that was my first thought."

He wasn't sure how hot it was inside and started banging on the side of the trailer, both to test the heat and to wake up anybody who might be inside.

"I was hitting the trailer as hard as I could with my hand," Donges said. "There was so much smoke in there, I don't know how anybody could've survived. People told me every time I hit it, it sounded like a gunshot and it woke them up."

Dale Holthues lives next to the mobile home that caught fire and said he was in bed when a motion light in the driveway went off, catching his and wife's attention.

He said that once they saw the flames, he ran to the home to try to get occupants out while his wife called 911.

Holthues tried to kick in two different doors, while Donges banged on the house's sides, but couldn't get them open and received no response from inside.

"We could not get any results," he said. "I don't if they were sleeping or what."

Neither man knew for sure if anybody was inside or anybody was injured. An empty Lockwood ambulance could be seen leaving the area at about 6 a.m.

The investigation is ongoing. Sheriff's deputies were searching vehicles parked in front of the home.  Yellow crime scene tape was placed around the driveway to the home and part of Hemlock Drive was closed to traffic.

Lockwood fire responded with 17 firefighters, two engines, a ladder truck, an ambulance and a command vehicle. NorthWestern Energy also responded.

More details will be reported here as they are made available.



Copyright 2015 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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