Seven children from a Syrian family ranging in age from four months to 15 years old have died in an early morning house fire in Halifax.
Halifax police confirm the fatalities, and say a man with life-threatening injuries and a woman with non-life-threatening injuries were taken to hospital.
Multiple sources tell Global News the victims are all members of a Syrian refugee family that came to Nova Scotia in 2017, and moved into the home last summer.
WATCH: Seven children confirmed killed in deadly Halifax fire: firefighters
Emergency crews were called to a home on Quartz Drive in Spryfield at around 1 a.m. Tuesday, and found heavy fire on the first and second floors of the house.
“They encountered heavy and dangerous fire conditions,” said Deputy Fire Chief Dave Meldrum from Halifax Fire.
“Once this fire was contained, sadly our firefighters discovered multiple fatalities in the home.”
Next-door neighbour Danielle Burt says she was awoken around 12:30 a.m. by a loud sound.
“I heard a huge bang, and I was laying in bed with my daughter, and followed by a woman screaming. So I jumped out of bed and looked out the back window and all I could see was flames shooting out from the back door going onto their deck,” Burt said.
“It happened all so fast and the house went up really quickly.”
WATCH: Syrian community rally to support family killed in Halifax fire.
She fled her house with her four children and saw the parents outside in a harrowing scene.
“The mother was on the grass, praying I guess, bowing her hands down, and pulling on my husband’s arm to call 911,” she said, becoming emotional.
“She said the kids were inside and the dad was sitting on the steps. I think he had gone back in because he was really burnt. It was just awful.”
WATCH: Next-door neighbour Danielle Burt describes the scene of the fatal fire.
Rich Farrell, who lives further down the street, says he ran towards the home during the fire to see if he could help.
“Myself and a few of the neighbours were running up the road to see if there was anything we could do to help but at that time, the house was pretty much engulfed and there was smoke billowing out of the top floor,” he said.
“So we just kind of waited for the emergency crews to arrive. It was just pretty devastating”
WATCH: Seven children from a Syrian family ranging in age from four months to 15-years-old have died in an early morning house fire in Halifax. Alicia Draus brings us the latest.
Farrell says he was shocked by how quickly the fire engulfed the home.
“It’s so frightening but within the space of 30 seconds, it went from what looked like just a little bit of flame to the whole thing just becoming engulfed,” he said.
Family came as Syrian refugees in 2017, recently moved into home
Elmsdale businessman Leno Ribahi, who helped the family settle into Nova Scotia in collaboration with the Hants East Assisting Refugee Team (HEART) Society, says the victims are members of the Barho family.
They came to Canada in September 2017 as a sponsored Syrian refugee family, and arrived with much fanfare at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. At the time of their arrival, the mother told a local news outlet that she felt “happiness” to be in Canada.
The Ummah Mosque and Community Centre in Halifax confirmed with Global News they are assisting the family in the wake of the tragedy.
In a Facebook post, the mosque identifies the seven victims as Abdullah, Rana, Hala, Ghala, Mohammed, Rola and Ahmed — ranging in age from four-months-old to 15-years-old.
Burt says the young victims were good friends with her children.
“They were over at our house yesterday,” she said.
“[I’m] just devastated and I can’t even fathom it. It’s something out of a horror movie that you never wish on anybody.”
Natalie Horne with HEART confirmed with Global News that all seven children perished in the fire and their father was badly injured trying to rescue the children. She says he currently is in critical condition.
Horne says although the family moved to Spryfield in October, they missed the people of East Hants and planned to move back next week.
“The four school-aged children were really looking forward to returning to their schools,” Horne stated. “Many thanks to the people at those schools who made the kids feel so welcome and happy.”
In a statement, the Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) said four of the children attended its schools — two at Central Spryfield Elementary and two at Rockingstone Heights.
“We have additional staff in place at both schools to provide support to students. They will provide support on site for as long as necessary. Additional information will be shared with families by each school later today,” wrote spokesperson Doug Hadley.
Community affected by tragedy
Earlier in the day, Halifax District Fire Chief Mike Blackburn suggested firefighters were deeply affected by what they saw.
“They’ll process this over time but it’s very difficult and it’s not going to get any easier,” he said.
Meldrum says the death of seven people is the largest loss for Halifax Fire in their memory, and that firefighters have been debriefed. Halifax Regional Police says their members who responded to the fire have also received critical incident stress debriefing.
WATCH: Halifax fire services: House fire is ‘largest loss’ in recent memory
Area councillor Steve Adams says the entire community has been affected by the tragedy, and is reminding people to seek help if they need it.
“If you need help, ask. It’s available. I’ve been in touch with the mayor and deputy mayor Tony Mancini and Mike Savage as well and everyone in the municipality -– whatever we can do we will do,” Adams said.
“We’re hoping that the schools reach out and the support services we have in place are fully available and ready to go.”
Investigation into cause of fire continues
The home, which is in a newly-constructed neighbourhood, appears to have extensive damage to the upper floor.
The damage is especially evident in the back of the home.
Adams says the homes in the community are “practically brand new” and were mostly constructed within the past five years.
Meldrum says the fire investigation continues and calls it a “painstaking process” to find the cause. The province’s medical examiner is also investigating.
Another neighbour says he called 911 and rushed over to help but says there wasn’t much they could do as the flames took over very quickly. A photo from the back of the house shows the devastating damage. pic.twitter.com/G0rPzNAEep— Alicia Draus (@Alicia_Draus) February 19, 2019
The street was closed to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic, and police were asking people to stay out of the area.
— With files from The Canadian Press, Alicia Draus and Elizabeth McSheffrey