Nova Scotia

Medical examiner's office investigates house fire that killed 4 Nova Scotia children

Grief counsellors are offering support to children at a Nova Scotia elementary school as investigators examine the remains of a weekend house fire that claimed the lives of four children.

RCMP say the fire is not considered suspicious

Drumlin Heights Consolidated School in Argyle, N.S. sent a letter home to parents encouraging them to talk with their children about their grief in the wake of Sunday's fire, which killed four children, two of whom were students at the school. (Olivier Lefebvre/Radio-Canada)

Grief counsellors are offering support to children at a Nova Scotia elementary school as investigators try to find out what caused a weekend house fire that claimed the lives of four children.

The RCMP said they've determined that the fire that started early Sunday morning in Pubnico Head — a small community some 260 kilometres from Halifax — is not suspicious. 

The investigation is now in the hands of the Nova Scotia Medical Examiner Service. Dr. Matt Bowes said in a statement that his team will continue their work in the coming days, and share the results with the families, the RCMP and the fire marshal. 

RCMP have said two people escaped from the fire and one of them was injured. (Paul Emile D'Entremont/Radio-Canada)

While police have not confirmed details about how many people died in the fire, they said two people escaped and one of them was injured. Family members of the victims have said four children, who were not all siblings, died. 

About 50 volunteer firefighters battled the fire for two hours on Sunday, but the home was completely destroyed. 

RCMP Cpl. Jen Clarke said police are releasing few details at this time partly due to the challenging conditions of the investigation.

"Just based on the weather conditions, based on the conditions of the home… it's been difficult to get in there, and determine exactly what is left," she said. 

Firefighters said the house was destroyed within two hours after the blaze broke out early Sunday. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Grief counsellors were at Drumlin Heights Consolidated School in nearby Argyle on Monday, where administrators say two of the victims were students.

In a letter to parents, the school's principal Dwayne Landry said a plan is in place to help students cope with the tragedy. He said students will react differently to the news, and that while some may want to talk to counsellors, others may not. 

Landry encouraged parents to talk to their children about their grief, and suggested ways to comfort them. 

Rejanne d'Entremont's six-year-old daughter was friends with one of the victims, and the children attended each other's birthday parties. 

"We decided to tell her what happened. And she was very upset. She sobbed in my and my fiancés arms. She keeps saying she'll miss them but they're angels up in the sky now," d'Entremont said Sunday night. 

People who live in the community said they're prepared to help the affected families any way possible. 

Police are still investigating the cause of the fire but have said it is not suspicious. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Gilles Korent, who lives near the home, saw the smoke and the emergency responders on Sunday morning.  

"It's a really tight community, so I think the people will get together and really deal with it, and really do what it takes to help the families."

Helen LeBlanc, who works at Red Cap Restaurant not far from Pubnico Head, said it's a very hard time for the entire community. 

"Something like this, I've never experienced in my lifetime, and it's just one whole family so everyone is affected deeply," she said. 

Janine Muise, who works with the Canadian Red Cross, said she met with an affected family member on Sunday to assess people's needs. She recommended people who want to help contact local community organizations to find out what is needed.

"It's horrific thing that has happened, an event in our community. When you lose a family member, it's awful.… There's children involved and it makes it doubly worse," she said.

The entire community is feeling the loss, said Helen LeBlanc, who works at a restaurant not far from Pubnico Head. (Stephanie Clattenburg/CBC)

With files from Kayla Hounsell, Brett Ruskin, Emma Davie, Paul Emile d'Entremont and Emma Smith