A Pennsylvania father and two of his young sons were killed in a Christmas morning fire. The mother escaped the deadly fire with her oldest son. The blaze was likely started by lights on the family’s Christmas tree, according to a preliminary investigation.
Eric King, 41, and children Liam, 11, and Patrick, 8, died from a fast-moving fire that ripped through their Quakertown home on Christmas around 1:20 a.m., according to the Bucks County Courier Times. The family’s two dogs also perished in the blaze. The mother, Kristen, and eldest son, Brady, 13, escaped. They were treated at a local hospital and released.
The fatal fire reportedly destroyed the family’s home and caused significant damage to the twin home attached to it. Authorities said emergency officials attempted to enter the house but the fire kept them back because it was so intense.
“We will be continuing to investigate to find out why it ignited, but the evidence is very clear that it started in the Christmas tree. It was a real tree,” said Quakertown Police Chief Scott McElree. ” … It was such a hot fire that most of the content where it started is burnt.”
“A Christmas tree burns very quickly and very hot,” McElree said. “When trees go dry, it’s a violent and robust source. There is an immense amount of heat and that probably contributed.”
Chief McElree said the wooden stick-frame construction also likely enabled the fire to move quickly. He added that the fire wall between the twin homes probably allowed for the family to escape without injury.
The flames were not brought under control until 2:34 a.m., according to Fox News.
The “rapid moving fire” left “so much devastation,” said Quakertown Fire Marshal Doug Wilhelm.
“It’s horrendous,” McElree said. “This impacts us all. This impacts our community, our families in general, the kids in the schools and the people who know the King family. We’re partners in this and we and the school district will do what we can to support everyone.”
A GoFundMe campaign was created by the Quakertown community. As of Sunday night, the online crowdsourced fundraiser had received nearly $610,000 donations from over 9,000 contributors. The listing notes: “The organizer has currently disabled new donations to this fundraiser.”
“Eric and Kristin were high school sweethearts and the happiest people you will have ever met,” the GoFundMe campaign reads. “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 description states.