Four children die in Stafford house fire

The house

Four children have died in a house fire in Stafford.

The blaze in the Highfields area of the town in the early hours also left another child and two adults injured.

Part of the roof of the house has collapsed, windows were shattered and the rooms were left blackened by the blaze.

A senior Staffordshire Police officer described the loss of “precious lives” in the fire as “absolutely heartbreaking”.

The injuries to the two adults and the child are not thought to be life-threatening.

Media captionFour children found dead in house fire

Neighbour Wendy Pickering was in tears as she remembered the children, who she often saw while taking her granddaughter to school.

“It is a real shock,” she said.

“We heard screaming, but we weren’t sure if the children were in the garden.”

Her husband Bryan said he was alerted to the fire by his dog barking during the night.

“The flames were lashing out of the upstairs window,” he said.

Kylie, another neighbour, said: “I am absolutely devastated. Devastated for the family, and devastated because you’d hear the children playing in the garden.

“It just makes you think how fragile life is really, because in a second your house and your family can disappear.”

The house from aboveImage copyrightPA
Image captionCrews were examining the house as part of their investigation on Tuesday

Emergency services were called to the fire on Sycamore Lane at about 02:40 GMT.

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service are examining the house as part of their investigation.

Latest news and updates from the West Midlands

The family are being supported by specialist police officers.

Ch Insp John Owen, of Staffordshire Police, expressed his sadness at the “tragic incident” on Twitter.

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At the scene

By Jennie Aitken, BBC Radio Stoke

Neighbours I’ve spoken to described hearing an explosion sound like a blast that woke them.

The roof of the house is damaged, windows are smashed out and the rooms are blackened.

There is a large police and fire service presence, and Sycamore Lane has been cordoned off.

A resident also said they heard there was a man who jumped out the window with a baby or a young child.

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A West Midlands Ambulance Service spokeswoman said: “When crews arrived they found an ongoing serious house fire.

“Three occupants, two adults and a child, had managed to get out of the property. Tragically, four children from the property were confirmed dead on scene.

“Our thoughts are with the family at this exceptionally difficult time.”

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Image captionTributes are being left near the scene of the blaze

Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire Commissioner for Police Fire and Crime, paid tribute to emergency services for working in “tragic and difficult circumstances in the middle of the night”.

“For something like this to happen it’s just heart-breaking,” he said.

“It’s very difficult to imagine just how professional and how dedicated these people are, but they are all human beings.

“Whilst they will all stay professional, this will affect all of those individuals who are involved in that for a long time to come.”

Jeremy Lefroy, the Conservative MP for Stafford, described the fire as “unbelievably tragic”.