RAISIN TOWNSHIP — Two boys from Shelby County succumbed to their injuries Sunday after sustaining extensive third-degree burns on their bodies after a fire ripped through the cabin they were sleeping in during the day’s very early hours.
The boys’ names weren’t immediately released by the Raisin Township Fire Department. However, the Shelby County 4-H Facebook site, along with the boys’ mother’s Facebook site, report Landin Caudill and Dalton Shank died of injuries sustained in the fire. Both were members of the Scissors to Sheep and Shelby County Shooting Sports 4-H Clubs. Both raised and showed market rabbits at the Shelby County Fair.
Dalton is the son of Gregory and Teslie Shank, of Marysville, and Heidi and Dan Caudill, of Piqua. Landin is the son of Heidi and Dan Caudill.
According to Hardin-Houston Local Schools Superintendent Larry Claypool, Dalton, 14, would have been a freshman in the fall, while his brother, Landin, 10, was going into the fifth-grade.
“We are so saddened by the loss of Dalton and Landin – just wonderful boys. They will definitely be missed,” said Claypool.
He added the school district is currently arranging for counseling for their students and teachers.
Funeral arrangements for Dalton and Landin are pending at Cromes-Edwards Funeral Home, Sidney.
According to Raisin Township Fire Chief Jim Hannah, the cause of the fire continues to be under investigation by the Michigan State Police and Raisin Township fire investigators but has been determined not to be suspicious.
Investigators have also ruled out lightning as the cause of the fire, as was originally reported to emergency responders. Hannah said that he contacted the National Weather Service and was told that the last lightning strike in the area was at 11 p.m. Saturday.
The boys, ages 14 and 10, were visiting the family’s cabins at 3855 Black Highway in Raisin Township from the Piqua, Ohio, area with their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Officials have not released the boys’ names. The property, located in a woody area accessible through a long driveway, has two residential buildings. The four adults were sleeping in the cabin toward the front of the property while and the two boys were in the back cabin.
After hearing something that sounded like an explosion, the children’s grandmother looked toward the small, red cabin where the boys were sleeping and saw flames.
Emergency personnel were dispatched to the scene at 12:55 a.m. to reports of a house fire caused by a lightning strike.
First to arrive were Adrian Township police Sgt. James Briggs and Raisin Township police officers Jacey Lambka and Scott Bugbee.
The grandparents were attempting to get the children — who were incapacitated by their injuries — out of the building, but were having problems due to the smoke. When the police officers arrived, they were able to get the children out of the cabin.
“They’ve got no additional protection like we do, like our turnout gear. So they’re in their dress uniform and that’s it,” Hannah said of the police officers. “They have no type of breathing apparatus and nothing like that.”
The officers informed dispatch the children had full-body, third-degree burns and were in critical condition.
Hannah said that when he arrived with his wife, Sherri, who is also a firefighter and paramedic, flames had engulfed 50 percent of the cabin, starting with the garage. By the time the department could get a fire engine down the narrow, muddy driveway to put out the flames and extend a water supply line, the building was 75 percent involved.
“We had entrance issues in here. Very small driveway, very muddy driveway. So we had a couple ambulances that did get hung up,” Hannah said.
Hannah asked dispatch to check if any medical helicopters were flying and requested two helicopters, but due to the stormy weather in the region, none of Survival Flight, Life Flight or ProMedica Air were flying.
The boys were transported to the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor by ambulance at about 1:30 a.m.
Hannah said the boys’ uncle drove their mother from Ohio to the hospital.
Hannah immediately requested assistance from the Tecumseh, Adrian Township and Adrian fire departments as well as Lenawee Community Ambulance, which arrived with three vehicles.
Hannah also witnessed two additional explosions from the garage area, which he believes were gas cans.
Adding to the difficulty for firefighters to get to the burning building, a primary power line came down, preventing the firefighters from being able to access the back of the cabin until Consumers Energy was able to cut off the power to the cabin and some of the surrounding houses.
Lenawee County Victim Services and the American Red Cross were called to assist the family with resources and lodging.
Because of the injuries, the state police fire investigation team was called to help Raisin Township fire and police departments investigate.
The fire resulted in a total loss of the building, which was uninsured.
Hannah also requested the Lenawee County Critical Stress Team due to the firefighters seeing the injured kids.
According to Hannah, the stress team employs a psychologist, minister and a trained critical stress debriefer and will meet with the first responders at the fire station Monday.
“I’ve got a bunch of new firefighters. Some of the firefighters that were here and police officers I know have kids around that age, so it’s better to be safe. That’s the leading cause to PTSD. So I’ll get them in. If they want to be part of it, they can be. At least help’s there for them,” Hannah said. “We do it all the time, but I got to tell you … I’ve been doing this for 28 years and walking up to two kids burnt like this, I don’t care how long you’ve done it, it’s overwhelming. You kind of second guess yourself. You know, if I did this different would this come out different?”
Departments assisting at the scene included fire departments from Adrian, Adrian Township, Palmyra Township and Tecumseh, with Cambridge Township moving into Raisin Township’s station. Others at the scene included LCA, as well as officers from the Raisin Township police, Adrian Township police, Lenawee County Sheriff’s Office and state police.
The writer is a reporter for The Daily Telegram in Adrian, Michigan. Sidney Daily News Editor Melanie Speicher contributed to the story.