Christmas lights suspected as fire kills five

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The Independent Online

Investigators sifted through the charred remains of a house fire that killed a family of five amid fears that it may have been started by Christmas lights.

The victims of Saturday's fire in Hayes, west London, included a father in his early forties, a mother in her mid-thirties, two daughters and a son, all aged under 10.

London Fire Brigade investigators believe that Christmas decorations, including a large number of lights inside and outside the semi-detached house, could have ignited the flames.

Mazin Daod, a fire service spokesman, said: "This time of year, candles and lights are brought down from the loft and dusted off. Christmas trees can be a real hazard. You have got so much additional fuel. At this stage, it is difficult to tell how the fire started because of the level of destruction, but we are looking into every possibility."

Police said the fatal blaze was being treated as non-suspicious. Formal identification has yet to take place and efforts are still being made to trace the family's next of kin.

Neighbours said the parents had moved to Britain from Mauritius before starting a family together. Isabel Kiflie, 31,said that she had known the family well and their children used to play together.

"The children were just so lovely. They came over last Sunday to see my new baby and the nine-year-old was so excited because she wanted to spend Christmas with my baby," she said.

"They were the nicest family, friendly with everyone. I just cannot believe it."

Mrs Kiflie was among neighbours who tried to put out the flames with a garden hose before the fire brigade arrived.

"I was so scared," she said. "It was really loud and when I was standing here there was an explosion and all the windows broke. We tried to use a hose but it was so hot and nothing stopped it."

Mrs Kiflie said she had become friendly with the family when she was pregnant earlier this year. "The little boy used to come and play with my son."

The fire brigade was called to the house just before 3am and 20 firefighters spent nearly two hours fighting the blaze, which had spread throughout the two-storey building.

Mr Daod said his officers had found two adults and a child downstairs and two other children upstairs, but by the time they arrived nothing could be done for them. "Especially when you come across children, it is hard." The bodies were removed from the house on Saturday night.