British Columbia

Father charged with 2nd-degree murder after 'tragic' house fire in Port Moody, B.C.

Five children escaped from the second floor of a house with the help of neighbours, a ladder and a trampoline as the home became engulfed in flames following a domestic dispute.

5 children escape from house engulfed in flames after domestic dispute

Port Moody, B.C., firefighters say flames were shooting out of this home on Sunday when they arrived. (Curtis Kreklau)

A father of six has been charged with second-degree murder and two counts of arson following a "tragic" and suspicious fire in Port Moody, B.C., that left the woman believed to be his wife dead and sent five of their children to hospital. 

Police found the house engulfed in flames Sunday afternoon after being called to a domestic disturbance in the 3300 block of Dewdney Trunk Road just before 1:30 p.m. PT.

A woman with serious burns was taken to hospital, while a man was taken away in handcuffs by police. On Monday, police confirmed the woman had died and the death was being investigated as a homicide.

The Lower Mainland's Integrated Homicide Investigation Team announced the charges late Monday afternoon.

Five children escaped the burning Port Moody house thanks to a neighbour with a ladder, said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound, spokeswoman for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team. (Anita Bathe/CBC)

Help from neighbours

Five of the couple's children, who range in age from five to 18 years old, fled the house before police arrived. A sixth child wasn't home at the time.

The children escaped from the second floor of the burning house with help from quick-thinking neighbours and a ladder, said Staff Sgt. Jennifer Pound of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

"They managed to come together and be calm and use their common sense to escape from this fire," said Pound. 

They also used a trampoline in the backyard, said Pound, who thanked the unnamed people who helped the children.

"Our hearts go out to these kids, and they're unfortunately going to have a long road ahead of them," said Pound. "This incident is one that is tragic beyond words."

The children escaped with minor burns and smoke inhalation, according to fire officials. They were taken to hospital but have been released.

On Monday, neighbours began leaving flowers at the family home, which is surrounded by crime scene tape.

Neighbour Mercedes Pascual was at home across the street when the fire started.

"My husband looked out of the window and he yelled, 'There is fire!' I jumped out of my chair," she said.

"We rushed out and the rest of the neighbourhood was here watching."

Pascual said she didn't know the family well, describing them as "very private people."

Bouquets were left in memory of the woman who died from severe burns following a suspicious fire in her home in Port Moody. (Christer Waara/CBC)

Investigators looking for video

The victim's identity hasn't been released, pending notification of her family members, which homicide investigators said may take some time.

The suspect, who police believe is the husband of the deceased, remains in custody. His identity wasn't released in order to protect the identity of the children.

Investigators were still in the neighbourhood Monday canvassing for witnesses.

They were also trying to collect any video footage that may have been taken of the Sunday afternoon fire.

Anyone with photos or videos on their devices can contact IHIT at 1-877-551-4448.

Port Moody Fire Rescue and Port Moody police are assisting with the investigation.

Five children escaped from the second floor of the home, thanks to help from neighbours, a ladder and a trampoline, according to police. (Curtis Kreklau)

With files from Farrah Merali and Anita Bathe