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Accelerant used in fire-pit mishap that critically injured kids: Neighbours

PORT BURWELL -  A backyard cookout took a horrific turn when a couple and three of their young children were badly burned in this Lake Erie community.

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PORT BURWELL – A backyard cookout in this Lake Erie community took a horrific turn when a couple and three of their young children were badly burned, two people who know the family tell The London Free Press.

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Emergency crews were called at 6:50 p.m. Monday to a home at 54701 Vienna Line in Port Burwell, where two adults and three children were injured in a fire pit mishap, Elgin County OPP said.

Two girls, ages seven and one, and a four-year-old boy were taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries, while a man, 33, and woman, 28, had serious injuries, police said.

A neighbour and relative of the injured family identified the adults as Jake and Tina Hiebert.

“The family was having a cookout. The fire didn’t want to start so they poured some kind of fuel on the fire,” a relative wrote in a Facebook message to The Free Press.

The relative, who did not want to be identified, said it’s unclear whether the jerry can exploded or fuel splashed on the Hieberts. “Those questions will have to be answered by the firefighters and OPP,” they wrote.

An OPP spokesperson said he couldn’t confirm whether there was an explosion or an accelerant involved in the incident. “That’s part of the investigation,” Const. Troy Carlson said.

OPP officers and investigators from the Office of the Fire Marshal remained on the scene Tuesday. A detective could be seen talking with a man at the front door of the rural home, while another officer flew a drone overhead.

OPP flying drone over Port Burwell home where five family members, including three children, were seriously injured in a fire pit accident — Dale Carruthers (@DaleatLFPress) July 13, 2021

Yellow police tape cordoned off a section of the backyard where a neighbour said the fire pit is located.

The single-storey home belongs to Jake Hieberts’ parents, the neighbour said, and the couple recently had moved in while their new house is being built.

The neighbour said fuel was involved in the mishap and said he saw ambulances leaving the home Monday evening.

Tina Hiebert was holding her baby when the incident happened, the relative said. The baby girl had burns to her whole body, except where her diaper was, and underwent surgery, the relative said.

Two of the couple’s other children – there are five kids in the family – weren’t injured, the relative said.

An online fundraiser for the Hiebert family launched Tuesday already had raised more than $13,000 by the evening.

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