Seven children are dead following a fire early Tuesday morning that swept through the Halifax home of a Syrian refugee family, the deadliest house fire in recent Nova Scotia history.
Halifax police confirmed the deaths at the house on Quartz Drive in the community of Spryfield. CBC News has confirmed a family with seven children who came to Canada as Syrian refugees lived in the home.
Danielle Burt, who lives next door to the home and knows the family, said she heard a loud noise in the middle of the night.
“I heard a huge bang, and I was laying in bed with my daughter, followed by a woman screaming, so I jumped up out of bed and looked out the back window and all I could see was flames shooting out from the back door going out onto their deck,” she said.
Burt said she grabbed her four children, ran outside and called 911.
“It happened all so fast. The house went up really quickly.”
She said the children who lived at the home that caught fire ranged in age from three months to 17 years old, and they were good friends with her children.
“They were just over at our house yesterday,” said Burt. “It’s just something out of a horror movie that you just never would wish on anybody.”
Wad Hassan, a friend of the family, said the family of nine moved to Canada within the last year. She met the mother last year while taking English classes together and last saw her four days ago.
Hassan said when she heard the news, she started making calls and discovered the victims were her friends.
“I can only pray that they find the strength and patience they need in this very difficult time,” she told CBC News in Arabic.
This is the deadliest house fire in recent Nova Scotia history. In January 2018, four children died in a house fire in Pubnico Head in the southwest part of the province.
Police have not yet released the ages of the children. They said emergency crews were called to the fire shortly before 1 a.m. local time.
A man with life-threatening injuries and a woman with non-life-threatening injuries were taken to hospital.
The roof was completely destroyed and the house is gutted. The siding on houses on either side is charred from the flames.
“Anytime someone passes away in a fire it’s certainly a very tragic circumstance and our thoughts really go out to the family at this time,” said Halifax police Const. John MacLeod
Quartz Drive is closed to pedestrians and vehicles. Police are asking people to avoid the area while emergency crews investigate.
Halifax District Fire Chief Mike Blackburn said there’s still a lot of work to be done in the investigation.
He said a Critical Incident Stress Management Team has also been brought in to help first responders deal with what they’ve seen.
“They’ll process this over time but it’s very, very difficult and it’s not going to get any easier.”
Local MLA Brendan Maguire said people in the community have reached out to him offering support for the family.
“It’s devastating to think this is a family that came to potentially to Canada for a better life and — I mean as a father of three, you know I can’t even imagine. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through right now.”