Fire officials were dispatched to the home after midnight on Saturday as all five members of the King family were fast asleep upstairs. Two of them — Kristin and eldest son Brady — managed to escape the blaze.
The other three, Eric and sons Liam and Patrick, were trapped in the home and died, fire officials said. The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but authorities believe it began at or near the family’s Christmas tree.
Eric King, 2 Sons Die in Christmas House Fire
Quakertown Fire Marshal Doug Wilhelm told CNN that firefighters were called to Essex Court home at about 1:22 a.m. Christmas morning. First responders tried to enter the home to save the Kings several times, Wilhelm said, but the strength and size of the raging inferno made rescue attempts impossible.
“It was too dangerous to get inside on the front side of the building with the fire,” the fire marshal said. “The front door and front window were blocked, fire was advancing to the entire home at that point. It was very difficult for firefighters to make a safe entry. It took a while.”
By the time emergency personnel got inside at around 2:30 a.m., Kristin and Brady, 13, had escaped. They were reportedly treated for minor burns and injuries at a nearby hospital and have since been released.
Most of the family was not so fortunate. Firefighters recovered the bodies of Eric, 11-year-old Liam, and 8-year-old Patrick on the second story of the home. Two of the family’s dogs were also killed in the blaze, reports added.
No official cause of death was given, pending the results of an autopsy, the Buck County Coroner’s Office said.
The fire also spread next door, but the neighboring family escaped without injury, according to reports.
Cause of House Fire Under Investigation
Scott McElree, Quakertown Police Chief, told local reporters Monday that the cause of the devastating fire is still under investigation — but preliminary findings suggest it started in the living room near the Christmas tree.
“We are looking at the Christmas tree that may have ignited as a result of Christmas lights on that Christmas tree,” McElree said.
“The area of origin was a Christmas tree, so we’re not sure if it’s because of electric or a dried up old Christmas tree,” Fire Marshal Wilhelm added.
Community Devastated by Loss
Quakertown School District, where all three King boys were enrolled as students, issued a statement on Facebook after the news broke Christmas morning.
“It is with unbearable sorrow that we share with you this Christmas morning the tragic news that the King family, in a house fire early today, lost their father and two Richland Elementary School students — Liam, a fifth-grader, and Patrick, a third-grader,” district officials wrote.
“Eric, Kristin, and their boys are very active in the community, and the kind of people who make this a special place to live and attend school,” the statement continued. “The school district sends its heartfelt sympathy to the King family and their many friends and relatives.”
A GoFundMe page set up by members of the community on Christmas day raised more than $600,000 within 48 hours of going live.
“Eric and Kristin were high school sweethearts and the happiest people you will have ever met,” wrote a friend of the King family. “They were always smiling and full of positive spirits, you just couldn’t help but to love them.”