4 Killed in Apache Junction mobile home fire

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas
Angel Etris By Jennifer Thomas Angel Etris By Jennifer Thomas

APACHE JUNCTION, Ariz. -- Two adults and two children have been killed in a mobile home fire in Apache Junction.

The fire started around 9:30 p.m. Tuesday near Meridian Road and Southern Avenue.

The double-wide trailer was fully engulfed in flames when fire crews arrived. After firefighters contained the fire, they found two men in their 30s, an 11-year-old boy and a 7-year old girl dead inside the home.

Neighbors reported hearing "popping" noises and then saw flames.

The popping was apparently the sound of ammunition going off inside the home.

Apache Junction Deputy Fire Chief Dave Montgomery said the homeowner ran a licensed firearms and ammunition business out of the home.

"I can't tell you how much black powder and smokeless powder we had, but there was a good amount in there to help that fire move along," Montgomery said.

Firefighters recovered dozens of charred weapons from the home. Fire officials confirm the homeowner was a licensed firearm and ammunition dealer. Firefighters found weapons inside and you can see shells in the rubble.

Jeff Serdy with A.J.I. Sporting Goods also specializes in firearms and ammo.

"I've known them for years and they're very good people and it’s a sad story," he said.

Serdy said the victims are part of a family known for their world renowned expertise in reloading ammunition.

"In the gun industry probably three or four out of 10 gun owners reload, it’s very simple and very safe," said Serdy.

At the children's school Wednesday a note was sent home with parents filling them in on the loss.

"What is obviously a very tragic situation," said Superintendent Chad Wilson with the Apache Junction School District.

Wilson said grief counselors were on site Wednesday and Thursday for both students and teachers.

Positive identification of the victims is pending DNA testing, however, it is believed the occupants of the home were Robert Shell Jr., 38; his son, Joseph Shell, 11; Robert's stepbrother, Ricky Etris, 32; and Etris' daughter, Angel Etris, 7. Shell and his son lived in the home. Etris and his daughter lived across the street.

Neighbors erected a small memorial for the victims on Wednesday.

Lori Gratz is a school bus driver who took the boy to and from school every day.

"He's going to be so missed," she said. "He was just a wonderful kid, and his dad was so loving, loved him so much."

The fire is still under investigation.

An account has been set up at Wells Fargo Bank in the name of the Shell Family Memorial Fund. The account number is 3140271465. Donations can be deposited at any branch or dropped off at Frank's Gun Shop, 1735 W. Apache Trail, #4, Apache Junction.