A father and two children died in a house fire early Christmas morning in Quakertown, authorities said, in a blaze believed to have begun in the area of the family’s Christmas tree.
The mother of the children and a third child escaped the house and suffered minor burns. Two dogs also died.
There were smoke detectors in the home, but they were not working, fire officials said.
The cause of the fire in the two-and-a-half story double home on Essex Court, off East Broad Street, to the east of Quakertown’s downtown area, remains under investigation. But it began in the area of the Christmas tree in the living room, Fire Marshal Doug Wilhelm told lehighvalleylive.com early Saturday afternoon.
County Coroner Meredith Buck identified the adult who died as Eric King, 41. Records show King and his wife bought the home in November 2007.
Buck has yet to identify the children, who both were boys. She said the coroner’s office responded about 3:15 a.m. and will effort to determine the cause and manner of the deaths. Autopsies won’t happen until early in the new week, she said.
Wilhelm said the boys who perished were 7 and 11 years old and were King’s children. One was found with his father in a bedroom while the other was discovered in a hallway, Wilhelm said.
The boys’ mother and an older brother escaped the home, but could not get back inside to help rescue the others, he said. When the first firefighters arrived, the blaze was too intense to enter the home to search for those trapped inside, Wilhelm added.
The mother and the surviving child suffered minor burns, were treated at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township and released, Wilhelm said.
Smoke detectors sounded in the other half of the double home and the two residents living there escaped unharmed through the rear of the house, Wilhelm said. There was significant fire damage to the second floor and attic of that part of the structure, Wilhelm said.
The fire was reported at 1:22 a.m. and under control by 2:34 a.m., Wilhelm said. Fire crews remained until about 7 a.m., Wilhelm said.
Borough police Chief Scott McElree told CBS 3 out of Philadelphia that investigators were probing holiday decorations as they sought a cause of the fire.
“Right now it’s our understanding that we’re looking at the Christmas tree that may have ignited as a result of Christmas lights on that Christmas tree,” McElree told the television station.
It is not known if the Christmas tree lights were on when the fire began, Wilhelm said.
Wilhelm was assisted in his investigation by a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal and the county fire marshal’s office, he said.
It has been many years since there was a fatal fire in the borough, he said.
Seven other fire departments assisted Quakertown firefighters at the scene, Buck said.
A GoFundMe by early Saturday afternoon had raised more than $150,000 to support the serving family members.
The organizer said in the post, “Eric and Kristin were high school sweethearts and the happiest people you will have ever met. They were always smiling and full of positive spirits, you just couldn’t help but to love them.
The three boys, Eric and Kristin were all a huge part of the Quakertown Youth Baseball Association and spent their days and nights at the baseball fields.
“The Quakertown community will be deeply impacted by this great loss.”
Tony Rhodin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.