Two young children injured in Elkhart fire

ELKHART, IN -- Two young Elkhart children were hospitalized with burns after an Elkhart County home caught fire late Saturday evening.

The blaze started just before 10 p.m. in the 23,000 block of Leslie Lane, which is just off of Old US 20 in Elkhart.

Neighbors and fire officials tell ABC 57 News the two young children were spending the night with Mr. and Mrs. Jim Bennett who live in the home where the fire broke out.

The overnight stay was part of a church program at Beulah Missionary Church.

Fire investigators say the fire started in a bedroom above the couple's garage, a room where the two young children were planning to spend the night.

Deputy Chief Don Mansell with the Concord Township Fire Department said, "Roughly around 10 last evening we got called out for a structure fire and when we arrived we had heavy flames and fire coming out of the roof area above the garage."

Mansell said the children were sleeping in the room the fire broke out in.

"One has second and third degree burns on her hands and face, the other little boy has first degree burns on his arm," said Mansell.

The victims are 9-year-old Leigha Allen a third grade student at Mary Daly Elementary School, and her brother 7-year-old Chaz Allen, a second grader at the same school.

The children and their parents are members of Beulah Missionary Church. They were on a sleepover with the Bennett's who are also parishioners as well.

"There was a bed up there, but there was also a lot of stuff-- their storage that they had up there, they were using it (the room) as a bedroom for the little kids that were there," said Mansell.

A gas can and a kerosene heater that were badly charred were among the many items in a pile of debris firefighters pulled from the room that caught fire.

Mansell said at this point he's not sure whether either were contributing factors of what sparked the blaze, however he believes both items could have been the cause of small explosions that neighbors heard as the fire erupted.

Elena McDonnell who lives next door said her family was alerted by a neighbor pounding on the door close to 10 p.m.

"We all got out of the house with my dogs and my dad and we came over to my neighbor's driveway," said McDonnell.

Brittany Victor who lives directly across the street from the fire.

She said she was just pulling up with her roommate and could barely get through.

"There was a ladder from the garage to the top of the window. I was at the front window and I took a picture there were just lights everywhere." said Victor.

Mansell said, "The little girl was taken to Memorial by Elkhart City medics which we called out because we did not have a medic available at that time. The little boy then was taken to Elkhart General by one of our paramedics. I believe the little girl was then flown to a Kalamazoo burn center for her burns."

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