Two killed, three presumed dead following Oneida house fire
A father and four young children, including a baby, are believed to have died in a house fire on the Oneida of the Thames First Nation, community leaders said Thursday as a forensic anthropologist was called in to help identify the charred remains.
Chief Randall Phillips called the fire a "terrible tragedy" that has devastated the small community of about 2,300 people.
"This loss is tremendous in a tight-knit community such as ours," he said. "We've only started to understand what has happened."
The fire broke out late Wednesday morning, with the two-storey home fully engulfed in flames by the time emergency crews arrived around 11 a.m., Phillips said.
Weather conditions, which included cold temperatures, hampered fire fighters' efforts to extinguish the blaze immediately, he said.
Once the fire was brought under control, a search was conducted for several family members who were unaccounted for, but Phillips said they were not found at the time.
A local fire chief said the bodies of an adult and a child have since been located inside the burnt-out home.
"We all know each other," an emotional Phillips told reporters, explaining that the First Nation is made up of nine traditional families.
"There's not a person in this community that doesn't know one of the victims or the victims' family."
Phillips said an forensic anthropologist is sifting through the remains to identify the other presumed victims.
While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Phillips suggested the conditions of the home may have played a part.
"The particular property that was engulfed was an older property and it was just basically kindling," he said.
"First Nations housing is in a crisis," he said. "We will continue to point to the federal government and provincial government to make sure that they uphold their responsibility to make sure that we have safe homes here."
Phillips says the names of the victims will not be released until the Office of the Fire Marshal has completed the investigation.
Although through family sources, the deceased has been identified as Kurt Antone and his children.
Calls for donations to support the Doxtator Antone family were posted online on Thursday.
In nearby London, the N'Amerind Friendship Centre identified the family as the one which "experienced tragedy" on the Oneida Nation a day earlier.
"They lost everything in a house fire including family members," the centre said in a call for donations of clothing, boots and coats.
The centre was looking specifically for donations for three boys -- aged six, eight and nine -- a 12-year-old girl, and the children's mother.
"We're just trying to pull our community together, to be there for them, for the family, at this time of year especially," said Adrienna Antone, who isn't related to the family but works at the centre and is helping collect donations.
"The kids that are remaining, we would like to assist them in that. That's why we put out the call for donations."
A GoFundMe page set up for the Doxtator Antone family also put out a call for funds to help the affected family.
"My sister's house caught fire yesterday morning. She lost her partner and 4 of her 8 children," a message on the campaign page said.
N'Amerind is accepting donations for the Doxtator/Antone family.
They are currently looking for donations of clothing, boots, coats and cash.
Donations can be dropped off at the N'Amerind Centre 260 Colborne St., London or call 519-672-0131 ext. 252 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Roads around the home that had caught fire were blocked off on Wednesday as firefighters inspected the damage.
The second floor of the two-storey home had partially collapsed, the roof had caved in and much of the exterior had been blackened by the flames.