Four members of a southwestern Ontario family, including a two-year-old boy and his 15-year-old sister, were killed in a house fire in Port Colborne early Wednesday morning.
The Port Colborne fire department said they arrived at a two-storey home located on Nickel Street east of Fares Street in the Lake Erie community south of Welland, at around 1:20 a.m.
“We arrived to find heavy flames through the roof and the rear area of the home,” Port Colborne Fire Chief Tom Cartwright told reporters on Wednesday. “Just prior to our arrival, we were notified by dispatch that there were all likelihood people trapped in the house.”
Niagara Regional Police confirm an 83-year-old great-grandmother was found in the home and pronounced dead at the scene.
Three others, a 37-year-old mother, her two-year-old son and 15-year-old daughter, who initially were unaccounted for, have been confirmed dead, the fire chief said.
It is also believed two other family members, one of them believed to be the children’s father, escaped the fire unharmed.
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“I’ve been on the job for almost 45 years. It’s devastating to me. It really is difficult to understand why this happens,” Cartwright said.
Officials said they entered the home and located the elderly victim but could not go any further due to the intensity of the flames. The fire was knocked down around 5 a.m.
WATCH: Fatal house fire in Port Colborne, Ont. Wednesday.
A neighbour told The Canadian Press she ran across the street as flames and heavy smoke engulfed her friends’ home.
Adrienne Gerry said the children’s father was inconsolable.
“He was in really bad shape,” she said. He pleaded with her and her husband to get his wife “and my babies.”
Police said the home suffered significant structural damage and is not safe for investigators to enter.
“Right now, it’s been described to me as twigs and tinder in there. People walking around those floors, they can drop through floors and things could collapse on them. It’s important that the move in their safely,” Const. Phil Gavin said.
There’s no word yet on the cause of the fire but officials said crews did not hear any smoke alarms.
“None of our people indicated that they heard smoke alarms,” Cartwright said.
The Ontario Fire Marshal has been called in to investigate.
With files from Mark Carcasole and The Canadian Press