Twin sisters and their older brother have been killed in a devastating house fire in the NSW Hunter Valley region.
Matylda and Scarlett Atkins, 6, and brother Blake, 12, were unable to be saved when flames engulfed their Singleton home in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Heroic neighbours managed to pull their mother Kara, 31, and another sibling Bayley, 8, to safety.
The mother and daughter are being treated in Newcastle’s John Hunter Hospital for burns.
The inferno started at the front of the home on Brittliffe Close in Singleton about 3.30am on Wednesday, and spread quickly through the rest of the home.
Pictured: Three children – twin girls aged six and their 12-year-old brother, were killed when fire broke out at their home in Singleton early on Wednesday morning
Mother Kara Atkins, 31, and her eight-year-old daughter Bayley were dragged to safety by heroic neighbours
Twins Matylda and Scarlett, six, were taken to hospital, where they were pronounced dead, while 12-year-old Blake (left) was found dead inside the home
A GoFundMe has been launched to help the family, who in addition to losing three children, have lost all of their belongings and their home.
Terrified residents woke up in the middle of the night to piercing screams coming from the home, and while some dashed in to help evacuate the property, others ran over with hoses to try and fight the blaze.
Neighbour Shandelle Reid, 27, told the Newcastle Herald she saw flames ‘skyrocketing out of the roof’ and heard an explosion as part of the Atkins family home collapsed.
Ms Reid also revealed the harrowing experience of another neighbour who had gone in to help the family.
‘This lady, she went into help,’ she said.
‘She said she pulled one of the kids through the back window, but the frame collapsed in and she said she couldn’t get in there to get the other kids.
‘But she said she kept hearing them screaming.’
When emergency services arrived, the blaze was too strong for them to enter through the front door, but firefighters were able to pull two six-year-old girls out of the blaze.
The girls were taken to hospital, but could not be revived and were pronounced dead.
An 11-year-old boy was found inside the house after the fire was brought under control and could not be revived.
Mrs Atkins has suffered burns to her forehead and back, but she and her daughter, who is being treated for smoke inhalation are in a stable condition at John Hunter Hospital.
The home, on Brittliffe Close in Singleton, was badly damaged in the fire, which engulfed the home
Neighbours were seen carrying flowers to the home as word of the tragedy began to spread
The home has become a crime scene, as forensic police investigate the cause of the fire
Police said a fireplace at the front of the home will be looked into as a potential cause for the devastating fire
Firefighters rushed to the blaze on Brittliffe Close in Singleton at about 3.30am on Wednesday
Investigators say they will be looking at the possibility the fire, which started at the front of the home and spread rapidly, was caused by a fireplace.
Horrifying footage from the scene shows the decimated house with most of the top floor collapsed.
A neighbour said she had been awoken to screams next door, and came out to see the home was on fire.
‘There were so many children inside,’ she told Nine News. ‘It is just a shocking thing to happen to anybody.’
Neighbour Brock Forbes told the ABC he and his family had grabbed the hose and rushed to help while they waited for firefighters.
‘Me and me family just woke up from a big bang and [we heard] just smashing and screaming so we ran out and grabbed the hose,’ he said.
‘I was trying to put the fire out and trying to save them and firefighters came and got it under control.
A full investigation has been launched to establish the cause of the fire, which may have been started by a fireplace
Neighbours were held back as emergency services worked to secure the home and establish the cause of the fire (pictured)
Early reports indicate there were six people, including four children, inside the home when the blaze erupted.
When it is deemed safe to do so, police and fire investigators will examine the home to identify where and how the fire started.
Police will prepare a report for the Coroner outlining the full circumstances surrounding the incident.
Singleton Mayor Sue Moore released a statement praising the heroic neighbours and first responders and addressing the heartbreak of the small community.
‘The situation confronting those who responded to the fire on Brittliffe Close in the early hours of this morning is hard for anyone to imagine, and I pay tribute to the heroism of the neighbours who were on the scene in the first instance and the emergency services who responded,’ she said.
‘We are proud of our tight-knit community in Singleton, and a tragedy like this, particularly with children involved, will touch everyone in some way. We will all band together to offer ongoing support to neighbours, schools and everyone in the wider community who have been affected.
‘To everyone who has been touched by this tragedy, I offer our community’s deepest sympathies.’
Neighbours awoke hearing screams in the middle of the night coming from the house where four children lived with their parents