Neighbours grieve 3 children killed in N.L. house fire

A school in eastern Newfoundland opened its doors Sunday to help residents grieve the stunning loss of three children in a house fire.

A school in eastern Newfoundland opened its doors Sunday to help residents grieve the stunning loss of three children in a house fire.

Investigators are still looking for the cause of Saturday morning's fire on Bell Island that killed three children, all between the ages of five and seven.

RCMP said a father was able to save one of his children, but despite what police call heroic efforts, he could not reach his five-year-old son or seven-year-old daughter. Their cousin, a five-year-old boy, also died in the early-morning fire.

"If it wasn't for the efforts of some of the people who did get out, this could've been much worse … as bad as it already is," said Cpl. Trevor O'Keefe. Three adults and two children survived the fire.

The fire was so intense that crews were still unable Monday to recover one of the bodies. Two of the bodies were found on Sunday in the rubble left after the fire.

On Sunday, grief counsellors were brought to St. Augustine's School, where the children were students.

The children aren't being identified by police. 

Principal Ron Glavine opened the doors to offer comfort.

"Sometimes some things that you and I can't understand are things that would cause them some problem," said Glavine, adding he is preparing a plan for classmates when the school reopens on Jan. 5 after the holiday vacation.

"They are people … I was growing to know quite well. It's sad," said Glavine, adding he especially had grown fond of the girl, a Grade 2 student.

"She'd be bouncing along, all full of energy. It would just kind of make your day to see a child with that kind of enthusiasm, and I guess it gives you the reason to do the things you do as an educator."

Deaths cast pall over holidays

The fire that devoured the Lance Cove home burned so intensely that the rubble couldn't be approached for many hours on Saturday.

"Unfortunately, there wasn't much we could do," O'Keefe said. "It was a large fire."

Bell Island, about 35 kilometres west of St. John's, is a tight-knit community of about 2,400 people. Residents told CBC News the tragedy has cast a pall over the holidays. 

"It's really going to affect my Christmas, I tell you," said neighbour Edgar Pynn. "And a good many more." 

"It's no question; it touches everybody," said Gary Gosine, mayor of Wabana, the largest community on Bell Island.

"It's touching everybody, and people are just shocked and devastated, and they're trying to see how they can help."

The Canadian Red Cross is providing the survivors with support, food and clothing. 

Video-store owner fed up with robberies

Meanwhile, people in the community expressed shock at a robbery on Saturday night at a local convenience store. RCMP said thieves ransacked the store, and stole beer and cigarettes.

"Given the tragedy that's occurred here over the past few days, I just couldn't believe that somebody would actually do something like this," O'Keefe said.

Ros Hiscock, who owns the Mr. Home Video store, said she has had her fill with robberies over the years.

"I'm ready to close up and leave the island. We've been here now since 1974, and I think I've had enough of it," Hiscock said. "It's too many times."