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Fire marshal: No cause can be found for fatal Lost Nation fire

LOST NATION – The fire that took the lives of a Dixon family of six, and the firefighters' efforts to contain it, so heavily damaged the two-story home that a cause of the inferno cannot be determined, a state arson investigator concluded.

"The cause of this fire will be documented as undetermined in nature," Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office Arson Investigator Greg Castronovo wrote in his report, obtained Friday through a Freedom of Information Act request.

"This was based on my inability to examine all areas of the structure due to structural collapse as a result of the fire and fire suppression efforts."

Often, when a fire is so intense and all-encompassing, the evidence of what causes it can be destroyed by the fire itself. Arson was not suspected in this case.

Timothy A. Shaw, 39, Melissa (Duncan) Shaw, 37, and Tim's children, Ethen, 17, LeAnne, 15, Hailey, 12, and Dylan, 11, all died of smoke inhalation in the fire Nov. 21 at 204 N. Miami Drive.

Ethen made the call to 911 at midnight from the smoke-filled basement, where his bedroom was, and where he said he was trapped, officials said. When firefighters arrived 17 minutes later, the home was fully engulfed.

Two dogs and five cats also died in the fire.

The Shaws were renting from Edward and Rebecca Lamken of Salem, South Carolina; Edward Lamken had worked with Tim's father, David, for 30 years, and the home was insured, he told Castronovo.

Lost Nation straddles the Lee/Ogle County border.


It is this Investigator's professional opinion, based upon a reasonable degree of fire investigation certainty, after consideration of physical evidence present, recognition of fire patterns, personal observations, scene documentation, collection of data, statements and facts known to this Investigator at the time of the preliminary investigation that the heaviest concentration of heat and fire damage was observed near the south and west quadrant of the building, which consisted of the main living room area and the open stairway leading to the second floor and basement.

According to Chief [Sid] Aurand of the Dixon Rural Fire Department, by the time they arrived on scene the fire had involved the entire structure except for the garage located on the north side of the home.

He stated the on-scene firefighters had pulled down the remnants of the walls located in the southwest corner of the home due to the heavy fire damage and degradation of the structural materials as a result of the fire to reduce overhead hazards.

Access to all areas of the home was not possible due to structural collapse and the large amount of fire debris as a result of the collapse.

I was unable to examine the entire home due to the above-mentioned conditions, however a visual observation of the first floor in the southwest corner of the home did reveal damage that appeared to be more significant than any other areas of the first floor.

The roof system over the main portion of the home as well as the second floor bedroom walls had collapsed prior to my investigation.

I was not able to access the remaining portions of the second floor due to structural compromise.

The cause of this fire will be documented as undetermined in nature. This was based on my inability to examine all areas of the structure due to structural collapse as a result of the fire and fire suppression efforts.

Undetermined fires are those fires that have been investigated and the cause not proven to an acceptable level of certainty.

This report may be subject to change or modification if additional evidence or information becomes available pertaining to this case.

This case is closed.

Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office Arson Investigator Greg Castronovo


A fund to help pay for the education and other expenses of Melissa Shaw's two surviving children has been established at Sterling Federal Bank.

Melissa, a 1998 Rock Falls High graduate, is survived by her parents, Robert and Linda Duncan of Rock Falls, and by Mackenzie and Alex Irwin, 16 and 13, who live in North Carolina with their dad, Jonathan M. Irwin.

Checks must be made payable to the Benefit of Melissa Irwin Shaw. They may be mailed to or dropped off at Sterling Federal Bank, 110 E. Fourth St., Sterling IL 61081 or to any of its branches in Rock Falls, Dixon, Morrison, Mount Morris, Byron, or Clinton, Iowa.

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