A mother and her three children have died in a house fire in the early hours this morning while two more children are being treated in hospital.
Firefighters were called to the property in Barn Mead, Harlow, Essex, at around 1.45am where they found a house 'well alight' with flames pouring from the building, from both the front and back doors.
A spokesman for Essex Police confirmed that three children died in the blaze, believed to be two boys aged 13 and six, and a girl, aged 11. A woman, thought to be their mother, is also dead.
Two other children are being treated in hospital and one is said to be in a 'critical' condition at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.
They are believed to be a boy aged nine, and a girl aged three. A man also suffered minor burns.
A police statement said: 'The cause of the fire is under investigation and detectives are looking at the circumstances leading up to the fire, and ask that anyone who was in the area of Barn Mead in the early hours of Monday and has any information contacts police at Harlow police station on 101.'
A joint police and fire service investigation will be carried out to establish the cause of the blaze.
A police spokesman added: 'We are investigating. Three children and a woman have died, We believe her to be the children's mother.
'Two more children are in hospital - one is in a critical condition.
'We were called to the scene at 1.40am this morning.'
The blaze was brought under control shortly before 3am.
Assistant divisional officer Steve Foster, from Essex Fire and Rescue, said: 'Crews arriving at the scene did everything they could.
'They were faced with a rapidly developed fire and went straight into the burning building wearing breathing apparatus to bring people out as quickly as possible.
'Once casualties were out, they worked alongside ambulance teams to do all they could.
'Fire investigation teams are now working with police to establish how this tragedy happened and our thoughts are with those the family left behind.'
Gary Sanderson, spokesman for the East of England Ambulance Service, said: 'First and foremost our thoughts are with the family and friends of all involved in this tragic incident this morning.
'Following a rapid scene assessment by the first clinician on scene, our trust declared a major incident due to the severity of the incident.
'Ambulance crews worked extremely hard alongside the fire service to treat a total of seven casualties - two adults and five children - who were all conveyed to Princess Alexandra Hospital.
'Sadly, after everyone’s best efforts, three children and an adult lost their lives. Two other children remain in a critical condition in hospital.'
A spokeswoman for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service said the father was not at home when the fire broke out and that the four deceased were pronounced dead at the scene.
She added: 'We understand that firefighters brought them out of the house and were doing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) outside, and that they were confirmed dead at the scene.
'The incident is now in the hands of Essex Police.'