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Four children have died after house fire in Stafford

Four children have been killed following a house fire in Stafford.

Emergency services were called to the blaze at a property on Sycamore Lane in the Highfields area around 2:40am this morning (5 February).

The children have yet to be formally identified, but are believed to be Riley Holt, aged eight, Keegan Unitt, aged six, Tilly Rose Unitt, aged four, and Olly Unitt, aged three.

A woman aged 24, and a 28-year-old man, escaped with a two-year-old boy.

They each received treatment by ambulance staff for non-life-threatening injuries, before being taken to the major trauma centre at Royal Stoke University Hospital.

The male is being treated for burns and the woman for smoke inhalation. 

Nicola Glover, headteacher at Castlechurch Primary School, said: "Our entire school community is absolutely devastated by this news.

"Riley was a very confident, excitable member of school who came every day full of enthusiasm. He was a caring friend who hated to see anyone hurt or upset and would do his best to help or cheer them up.

"Tilly was a happy little girl who loved coming to nursery. She was a friendly and caring child who loved to read stories, dress up and paint.

"Olly was a happy, loving boy who loved cuddles. He was always happy to come to nursery and loved to be in the role play area with the dolls.

"We have put in place support in school for staff and pupils, to help anyone who feels affected. Our sympathies are with the children's family and friends at this unimaginably difficult time."

Kim Ellis, headteacher at Marshlands Special School where Keegan was a pupil, said: "Keegan was lively, full of fun and mischief with a really endearing smile. He loved school and everyone who worked with him loved him. We are all so proud of him and the progress that he had made.

"It is very hard to accept what has happened. Our school community are understandably devastated and our thoughts and prayers are with his family."

Chief Inspector Gemma Ward, Commander for the Stafford Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “I want to reassure you we are working closely with colleagues from Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service as investigative work into the cause of the fire begins. 

“We would like to offer our condolences and thank the community for their support, as I’m aware groups and individuals have already been offering aid." 

A Facebook page has been set up to support the family.

Just Giving page has also raised more than £15,000.

Floral tributes and soft toys have been laid at the scene by local residents.

Prayers will be held at nearby Castle Church at 2pm this afternoon, and tonight at 7.30pm. The doors of the church building will also be open for people to come and pray.

The Revd Philip Sowerbutts, Vicar of Castle Church, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the family involved following this devastating incident.

"As a church family we grieve alongside the rest of our community here on Highfields.

"Highfields is a close knit community and we have all been shaken by this tragedy.

"As a church family we have committed to both praying for the family and community, and to help in an any practical way.

"On our Castle Church social media, we have published specific prayer resources for those who want to pray but struggle to find the right words."

Nathan Hudson, Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer from West Midlands Ambulance Service, said: “This was an immensely difficult incident for all three services to respond to and my thanks go to my staff and all emergency personnel on scene.

“My thoughts, and the thoughts of everyone at West Midlands Ambulance Service, remain with the family and friends at this difficult time.”

Fire Investigators from Staffordshire and West Midlands Fire Services are now conducting a joint investigation with police crime scene investigators into the cause of the fire. 

Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service's Chief Fire Officer, Becci Bryant, said: "My deepest sympathies and condolences are with the family and friends of those affected by this tragic incident.

"My thoughts are also with my firefighters who attended the incident and Fire Control who supported the incident throughout."

Stafford MP Jeremy Lefroy said: "The deaths of four children at a house fire in Highfields this morning is unbelieveably tragic. My deepest sympathies and prayers go to their families.

"Thanks to all of the emergency services dealing with this tragedy."

Philip Atkins, Leader of Staffordshire County Council, said: “I was shocked to hear the terrible news of the deaths of four children in the heart of our community.

“We will support the family in any way and our thoughts and prayers are very much with all those who knew and loved these children and who now must cope with this tragic loss.”

He added: “I would also thank all the emergency services for their work and professionalism in these devastating circumstances.”

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