‘Devastating’ house fire in Pubnico, N.S. leaves four children dead

Click to play video: 'Children killed in Nova Scotia house fire'
Children killed in Nova Scotia house fire
Tragedy hit a small community in Nova Scotia early Sunday, when a fire broke out in a rural home. Four children are believed to be among the dead in the small village of Pubnico. Natasha Pace reports – Jan 7, 2018

An overnight house fire near Yarmouth, N.S. has left four people dead, sources tell Global News.

The fire happened around 12:13 a.m. at a home on Hwy 3 in Pubnico, about three hours west of Halifax.

“When we arrived on-site, the house was already engulfed in flames at the time,” said Gordon Amiro, chief of the West Pubnico Fire Department.

Four children died in fire

RCMP say two people made it out of the home safely. While police say there were fatalities, they are not confirming the number of victims, their ages or gender.

“This is a very preliminary investigation and a very complex investigation,” said RCMP Cpl. Jennifer Clarke. “At this point in time we are not able to release a lot of details that are specific to the investigation until we’ve confirmed those things.”

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Ervin Olsen said two of his great-grandchildren were among the four people who died, but he declined to give further details, saying the losses were too “fresh.”

“There’s still people in hospital fighting for their life,” he said Sunday night.

Four children lived in the now-destroyed home and their father is being treated in hospital, where his common-law wife is with him, said Red Cross spokesperson Melanie MacDonald.

MacDonald said that the organization spoke to the grandfather of the woman who lived in the home. She says they were told that a man was taken to hospital following the fire, and that an infant was among the children who died.

The Red Cross is assisting the family with emergency purchases of food, clothing and personal care items.

“The house went up in flames very quickly,” said a neighbour who did not give her name. “It’s just a humongous tragedy. It’s so traumatic.”

Residents of the area identified the father as a lobster fisherman whose family has lived in the house for generations.

WATCH: RCMP confirm there were fatalities as a result of a house fire near Yarmouth, N.S.

Click to play video: '4 dead in house fire near Yarmouth, N.S.: RCMP'
4 dead in house fire near Yarmouth, N.S.: RCMP

Frigid weather made fire difficult for first responders

Dozens of firefighters, some from neighbouring communities, helped battle the flames. Frigid weather conditions made it difficult for volunteer firefighters and the equipment.

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“Two of our trucks froze, we had to take them in the hall and get them thawed out,” said Amiro.

The walls of the home had to be torn down so forensic identification officers and the medical examiner could enter the structure.

“It wasn’t safe for them to go inside and do what they have to do so we have to take the walls down because it was leaning inside and it was unsafe,” Amiro added.

‘It’s devastating’: councillor says support available for those impacted by fire

Pubnico is a tight-knit community where everybody knows everybody.

Kathy Bourque, an area councillor in Pubnico Head, says she found out about the fire from her husband, who was a responding firefighter.

“It’s terrible,” Bourque said. “My heart is going out to the whole family. It’s devastating.”

Bourque said she’s already spoken to the Canadian Red Cross and the municipality about assisting those impacted by the fire. A fundraiser may also take place in the near future.

“It’s quite the tragedy for the family and families,” said Bourque.

“It’s devastating for the community, but the community is going to be there for them. So whatever they need, all they have to do is reach out to us and we’re gonna help them.”

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Fire remains under investigation

The cause of the fire remains under investigation by the RCMP Major Crime Unit and the Fire Marshal’s office.

“I can’t really say whether it is suspicious or not, it’s under investigation,” said Clarke. “Further details will be available at a later time.”

More information is expected to be released Monday, once the medical examiner completes their work.

Both the RCMP and the fire department say there will be support available for members who are working at the scene to help them deal with the tragedy.

With files from The Canadian Press

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