'A lovely family': First photos of young house fire victims
Incredible stories of the heroic efforts of neighbours who tried to rescue a young family as fire ripped through their home in the NSW Hunter Valley this morning have emerged as the first photograph of the tragic siblings is published.
Twin six-year-old girls Matylda and Scarlett and their 12-year-old brother Blake died in the blaze at Brittliffe Close, Singleton early this morning.
Their mother Kara, 31, and eight-year-old sister Bayley survived the blaze and are being treated at Singleton Hospital.
A police spokeswoman said the pair were in a stable condition with non-life threatening injuries.
A GoFundMe page set up by Caitlyn Stemmer posted the first photograph of the siblings this morning and appealed for financial assistance to help the family rebuild.
The page had already raised almost $10,000 for the family, with tributes pouring in for the family.
"In the early hours of Wednesday the 26th of June 2019 Chris & Kara's family home was devastated by fire, claiming the lives of 3 of their children, Matylda and Scarlett twins aged 6 years old and Blake aged 12 years old," Ms Stemmer wrote.
"A go fund me has been started to raise funds to help the family through this horrible time, with funeral costs ect. Their 8 year old sister Bayley survived the inferno, the family will need to rebuild their lives and home, any help will be forever appreciated."
Family friend Stacey Hancox said Singleton was coming together after the tragedy and were determined to do everything they could to help the family.
"This is a good family, a lovely family," friend Stacey Hancox told news.com.au.
"The whole community is in shock but we are working hard to make sure they are well supported."
Police this morning praised the efforts of neighbours who risked their lives to try and save the children.
Hunter Valley Police District Commander Superintendent Chad Gillies said four residents helped pull the mother, Kara, out of the burning home.
"What I can say is that in the efforts of trying to put the fire out, four residents have assisted and removed the mother - a 31-year-old lady, and an eight-year-old daughter from the house, safely," Supt Gillies said.
"I think that they did an incredible job. Faced with a situation like this, it's probably one of the question that is everybody asks themselves - what would they do in this case?
"You know, they did an incredible job. With the intensity of the fire from experienced firecrews and the way that it was described - the neighbours and those that attended and tried to assist did a pretty incredible job."
Supt Gillies said firefighters pulled out the twins Matylda and Scarlett after managing to gain entry into the home.
"They were in separate rooms and entry was made through two separate windows," he said.
"The fire wasn't in those rooms at the point of time that they got there, but there was a large level of smoke at a very low level, and it was only very few minutes or seconds, even, after firefighters gained access to the room that the fire moved into those room areas. So it was an extremely difficult operation for those firefighters."
Supt Gillies said neighbours had reported that they heard smoke detectors operating and the sound of breaking glass caused by the fire.
"Firecrews on arrival heard the sound of smoke detectors operating. Obviously power had been cut off as part of the fire damage," he said.
Neighbour Brock Forbes said he heard a loud bang before the home erupted in flames.
"(We heard) just smashing and screaming so we ran out and grabbed the hose," he told the ABC.
"I was trying to put the fire out and trying to save them and firefighters came and got it under control."
Another neighbour said she also heard screaming coming from the property.
"I was woken up by screams and came out the front and the house was on fire," she told Nine's Today.
"There's so many children inside. It's just a shocking thing to happen to anybody."
Local resident Rebel Maskey said she hoped counselling services would be on offer as the tragedy would impact the whole community, especially children.
"All the kids play with everybody so it's going to affect them all," she said.
"Everybody knew them."
Ms Maskey said her cousin was on the scene quite quickly and tried to help.
"She saw it all … she was distraught."
More to come