An elderly woman and her three sons are dead following a house fire in St. George, N.B., on Tuesday afternoon, according to the local MLA.
The woman was believed to be in her 80s, and her sons, who were all in her care, were believed to be in their 40s to late-50s.
In an email to CBC News, Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Rick Doucet called the deaths "very sad for [the] community." He said the victims were all lifelong, well-known members of the 1,500-person town.
The bodies of three men and a woman were found inside the home on South Street following the fire, RCMP Sgt. Chris Henderson confirmed. The names of the victims have not been officially released.
An investigation into the cause of the fire and the circumstances surrounding the fatalities is ongoing, said Henderson, and is expected to continue "throughout the evening and into tomorrow."
At least five fire departments responded to the blaze in the heart of the town around 12:20 p.m.: St. George, Blacks Harbour, St. Stephen, Saint Andrews and Fundy Bay.
Emergency crews remained at 25 South St. into the early evening, CBC's Connell Smith reported from the scene.
The white wooden home has been cordoned off with yellow caution tape and officers were going door to door, talking to neighbours.
Mother was a 'trooper'
Doucet described the mother as a "solid trooper" who took care of her "boys day in and day out."
The youngest of the three sons was an honorary firefighter, who wore his uniform "all the time with so much pride," said Doucet. According to some area residents, he regularly walked around the community.
"He wore the pride of the fire department and the community right down to his heart and soul," said Doucet.
The man's death has hit the fire community hard, added Dale Shaw, the fire chief from neighbouring Blacks Harbour.
The middle son sometimes walked with his mother, too, but neighbours said the eldest son never left the house.
Shaw described the fire as very intense.
"There was flames, a lot of smoke and heat," he said. "We had fire on the main floor, some upstairs … We had to ventilate the roof to let out some of the heat."
Crews knocked the blaze down quickly, said Shaw, a charred front door and some broken windows the only visible damage to the exterior.
Then they searched for survivors in the thick smoke, but all four occupants were found deceased, he said.
The Town of St. George posted a message about the fatal fire on Facebook.
"Today we faced a tragedy in our community. We lost a beloved family and a wonderful honorary member of our Fire Department for over 40 years," it said.
"We cannot express in words how we are feeling but take comfort in knowing we are a strong community and we will make it through this together."
Comments on the post describe the news as "devastating" and "heartbreaking."
"They will be missed dearly and there will be a hole to never be filled in town," wrote Jodie Tanguay.
New Brunswick Southwest MP Karen Ludwig also posted a video condolence message on Twitter late Tuesday afternoon.
"I was shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic fire and loss today in St. George," she said. "[My husband] Andrew and I extend our sincerest condolences to the family and close-knit St. George community."
Ludwig also offered thanks to the first responders, saying "you are all in our thoughts and prayers."
The fire marshal, coroner and RCMP all attended the scene.
St. George is located in Charlotte County, about 110 kilometres south of Fredericton.