Floral tributes, children’s toys and cards line the temporary front fencing of a modest family home in Melbourne’s south-west where four children died in a ferocious fire early on Sunday morning.
Emotional neighbours on Sunday recounted the moments a father tried to save four of his children, aged from one to 10, after fire engulfed the Mantello Drive home in Werribee.
A fifth child, a boy aged eight, was released from hospital on Monday while his parents remain at The Alfred hospital in a stable condition.
Smoke lingered in the air outside the home on Monday morning as a woman dropped off a bouquet of flowers in front of the iron fencing now surrounding the property.
Moved to tears, the woman, who did not wish to give her name, said her son had previously played with some of the children, and that she knew the mother who was now recovering in the Alfred Hospital.
“They play together,” she said. She came to lay flowers on Monday because she was a mother, she said.
Charred beams, insulation and seared furniture could be seen inside the house after the roof collapsed on Sunday while CFA tape was still draped over the family letter box.
Investigators are still trying to figure out what caused the blaze.
Arun, who lives across the road from the family and had only recently moved to the street, witnessed the “unbelievable flames”, as the injured man pleaded for help to save his four trapped children.
“The father was trying to smash the door, smash the windows, everything,” Arun said on Sunday.
Neighbours Geeta and Robert Deagan assisted the distressed couple as they fought to save their children, trying to use a hose to suppress the flames and sheltering the woman in their home.
“The fire was so intense and huge … we couldn’t do anything, that was the most devastating part,” Mrs Deagan said.
Werribee Fire Brigade Lieutenant Damien Milloy said firefighters were told en route to the blaze that there were likely to be people still trapped in the house.
He said on Sunday that it was initially unsafe for fire crews to access the house with it fully alight, the roof being compromised, and tiles collapsing.
The roof collapse had also made it difficult to identify the cause of the fire early on, and to identify the location of the four deceased children.
“And also, with the distress of the parents and the eight-year-old, it was very difficult to get accurate information early on to be able to focus our search areas initially, externally, and then internally,” he said.
Lieutenant Milloy said there was nothing any of the neighbours could have done to save the children.
With Ashleigh McMillan
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