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Officials Dig Into Deadly House Fire For First Time

January 22, 2013, 5:58 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Officials Dig Into Deadly House Fire For First Time

Investigators are getting their first look inside a Sioux Falls home where three children died in a fire one month ago.

On Tuesday, authorities went inside the home on North Main Avenue where six-year-old Alivia Coon, 12-year-old Savannah Coon and 16-year-old Michael Hensley were killed on December 22.

The mother of the children, Rhiannon White, and her husband, David, were the only two to escape the fire a month ago.

Since then, Rhiannon White has been arrested for having drugs in her system during her emergency room visit following the fire, and officials have had to stabilize the home so it was safe enough for them to go inside.

Investigators just started digging into the fire scene. Members of the Sioux Falls Police Department and Sioux Falls Fire Rescue went in to comb for clues with shovels in their hands Tuesday as they search for a cause.

"It's very difficult to perform an investigation when there's ice because we have to dig things up.  We have to move things around," Sioux Falls Fire Inspector John Daniels said.

Authorities have had to wait for weeks to get inside the home because they wanted to make sure it was safe. They also had to thaw it out inside and dry it out before the investigation could begin.

Because of the extensive damage, officials are slowly sifting through the home room by room.

"When the ceiling comes down, the actual sheetrock, insulation, pieces of wood and such come down, so the actual floor is what we want to get to but it may take quite a while to get to that floor because we have to dig it all up in a slow, methodic manner," Daniels said.

Attorneys for the family were also on scene Tuesday. They aren't commenting but they are keeping an eye on the progress.

A dog was also brought in for a second time to search for accelerants that may have been used to fuel the fire. The dog had trouble the first time around because the ice was too thick on the debris and it couldn't pick up a scent. Investigators say the dog didn't find anything Tuesday either.

And because the blaze resulted in the death of three children, investigators are making sure they pay attention to every detail they find.

"Personally, yes, I want to put extra effort because there are some kids that died in it," Daniels said.

As far as the drug charges against White, fire authorities say it won't affect their investigation but police say they will consider all the information they have as they assist in the search of the home.

Rhiannon White is scheduled to appear in court Wednesday on those charges.

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