Derby

Four children dead in Derbyshire house fire

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Media captionGavin Tomlinson from the Derbyshire Fire Service: "It's a very tragic and very distressing time for anyone concerned"

Four children have died in a house fire in Derbyshire.

Emergency crews were called to the semi-detached home in Highfield Road, Hulland Ward, near Ashbourne, at about 2330 GMT on Monday.

About 20 firefighters from Ashbourne, Wirksworth and Belper stations brought the blaze under control.

Two boys, aged nine and four, and two girls, aged six and two, died. An investigation is being carried out to find out the cause of the fire.

Their 45-year-old mother was taken to Royal Derby Hospital where she is currently being treated for the effects of smoke inhalation, police said.

'Very tragic'

Emergency services were alerted by neighbours after hearing cries for help.

Fire crews remained at the scene overnight and were continuing their examination of the property on Tuesday.

Residents tried to reach the occupants of the house but could not open the front door. That door, as well as the front and side windows of the property, were badly scorched by the fire.

Gavin Tomlinson, from Derbyshire Fire and Rescue, said: "We were met with a very well-developed fire. We had to work hard to get access to the property.

"We knew there were people in the house. We didn't ascertain who they were or what they were initially, and unfortunately that became clear as the accident progressed.

"We have no view on the investigation at the moment. We have to bear in mind the sensitivity of this.

"It's a very tragic and very distressing time for anybody who's concerned or connected to both the fire service and the family in particular."

He said the blaze caused significant damage to the house. It started on the ground floor.

'Sad time'

The children were found on the first floor. The bodies of two of them were brought out of the property by firefighters.

Mr Tomlinson said the mother managed to escape from the house and then made attempts to get back inside to help rescue her children.

Neighbour, Brian Sellers, said: "By the time the fire service arrived, the blaze was well on its way and I don't think they had much chance.

"It's a shock for everyone here. It just feels really strange."

A statement from Bradley Church of England infant school, which one of the children attended, said: "Everyone at school is devastated by the tragedy and the thoughts of everyone at school are with the family at this sad time."

Muriel Edwin, landlady of the Blackhorse pub in the village, said: "It is really frightening. You can watch these things on the news...but if it is on your doorstep it really hits home."

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