News of Riverton, Lander and Fremont County, Wyoming, from the Ranger's award winning journalists.
Deadly house fire near Lander; two children killed
Jul 16, 2014 - By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer
Others airlifted out of state for burn treatment
Two young children have died after a fire surged through a home Tuesday night in rural Lander, according to Fremont County Coroner Ed McAuslan.
Authorities confirmed that the bodies of the children were recovered late Wednesday morning. Unofficial reports said the two victims were preschool-aged. No names have been released officially.
Police radio transmissions indicated that the bodies were removed from the scene shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday.
A call was made at 6:28 p.m. Tuesday to report "a fire with people inside" at 10 Lyons Valley Road in Lander, which is the home of the Feike and Noelle Van Dijk family.
Fremont County Fire Protection District chief Craig Haslam confirmed on scene at about 7:45 p.m. Tuesday that there were injuries from the fire. However, he would not confirm how many people were injured or the extent of those injuries at the time. He did say patients were taken to SageWest Health Care at Lander.
"I believe two were (airlifted)," Haslam said Wednesday.
McAuslan stayed on the scene well into the night Tuesday, and on Wednesday morning he confirmed two "young children" were recovered from the structure fire.
"They weren't infants, but they weren't teenagers," McAuslan said.
The children will be transported to Loveland, Colo., where an autopsy will be confirmed.
"We are hoping, then, to confirm the identities of the two children" officially, he said.
Haslam said the fire appears to be accidental. He said the family might have been cooking on a gas grill on the porch of the log house.
"With the high winds, the fire spread quickly," he said. "When we arrived on scene, the house was fully involved."
Emergency response was large. Agencies on the scene included Fremont County Fire Protection District, Fremont County Sheriff's Office, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Emergency Medical Services, Fremont County Coroner's Office, Lander Rural and Lander, Hudson and Atlantic City volunteer fire departments.
Family of seven
On Wednesday morning, the Fremont County Sheriff's Office released a statement stating "The home was occupied by a family of seven to include two parents and their five children. The parents and three of the children were transported to (SageWest Health Care at Lander) for treatment."
Radio traffic monitored Tuesday night indicated that a helicopter ambulance did not land at the fire scene, but fixed-wing aircraft were standing by to transport burn victims, apparently to Salt Lake City, where there is a burn center. Radio traffic reported that a 10-month-old baby had critical burn injuries, as did an adult.
Lee asked for "the community to keep this family in their thoughts throughout the day."
Since the news started to spread both through local media and social networks regarding the family's loss, community members pulled together to support the family.
April Hughes, public relations coordinator at Central Bank and Trust, said a fund has been set up in the Van Dijk family's name.
"We are encouraging people to stop into any one of our branches, as 100 percent of the proceeds go to the family," Hughes said.
The bank has locations in Lander, Riverton, Thermopolis, Fort Washakie and Cheyenne.
There is also an online fund started at gofundme.com (search Van Dijk Family) where a goal has been set to raise $50,000.
As of 12:15 p.m. Wednesday, 141 donors, according to the site, had raised $12,460.
At the Lander branch only, she said, non-monetary donations to the family are being accepted.
Hughes said they are collecting household goods, toys, and can accept furniture if people call before dropping it off.
"Basically, we are trying to replace what they lost," Hughes said. "We don't know (clothes) sizes yet, but we do know there are 10-month-old twins -- a boy and girl -- and 5-year-old boy."
Anyone with questions can reach Lander's Central Bank and Trust's branch at (332) 332-4730.
A Lander friend of the family, artist Zach Even, is doing what he can to raise funds for the family.
He described Feike Van Dijk as "a great guy," and said he is offering his artwork to raise funds.
"I am offering 100 percent of my artwork sale profits placed through my website to fund setup for the family," Even wrote in an e-mail.
Even's artwork can been seen on his Facebook page by searching Zach Even Art, or on his website at www.zachevenart.com.