Belcourt, North Dakota Fire Kills Two Children

A fire here Monday killed two children and seriously injured their 22-year-old mother.

Belcourt police and firefighters responded to the fire about 7 a.m. Monday at the Kent Addition, a housing complex about three miles east of town. One apartment in a duplex was on fire.

"The home was engulfed in flames," said Bureau of Indian Affairs special agent Wayne Thomas, who is participating in the investigation surrounding the fire.

When emergency personnel arrived at the scene, they learned that a young mother and her two sons, ages 2 and 5, were still in the home. Officials would not release their names, but neighbors said the mother's name is Natasha Grant.

Two other young women, ages 16 and 20, had escaped the fire.

Two BIA police officers, Chris Parisien and Kaylan Gourneau, were able to pull the 2-year-old boy from the burning home. Then, they pulled the young woman, who sustained severe burns, out of the home.

Stacy LaRocque, a police officer who also volunteers as a firefighter, entered the home to find the 5-year-old child, unconscious in the bathroom.

LaRocque was unable to exit the building the same way he entered because of flames, according to Thomas, and so entered a bedroom, where he broke a window to hand the child out and escape himself.

The three victims were rushed to the Quentin Burdick Memorial Hospital in Belcourt, where both children were pronounced dead. Smoke inhalation has been listed as the cause of death.

Their mother was air lifted first to Trinity Medical Center in Minot, then to the Regions Burn Center in St. Paul.

The fire is believed to have started in the kitchen of the duplex apartment, although the cause of the fire is still unknown, said Thomas.

State Fire Marshals Jerry McGarthy, based in Grafton, N.D., and Cathy Gurke, Minot, were on hand immediately after the fire. Both were in the area investigating two unrelated house fires that occurred since Sunday.

Thomas said the three-bedroom apartment burned quickly, and that the flames were doused within an hour of the fire's starting.

Claudia Morin, who lived in the adjoining apartment, said she was coming home from a night shift when she learned of the fire. She could not enter her home while the other half of the duplex was in flames, and she could do nothing but stand by helplessly as emergency personnel pulled the children and their mother from their home.

"It's a terrible thing, to stand there and watch and not be able to do anything," Morin said, her eyes brimming with tears. She said that she had lived next door to the victim for two years.

"Those kids would always come by, and the little one would say 'Hi neighbor.' That's all I've been able to think about, those two babies. I haven't been able to sleep," she said.

Morin said that after the fire was out, she found a blanket and some photos of the family behind the home, the only items that were saved from the fire, she said.

"I picked up the pictures and wrapped them in the baby blanket. They are of her and her two babies. I know it's not much, but it's something," she said. She gave the photos to a family member, Morin said.