POLICE ARE treating a house fire which ripped through a Barnsley home killing a father and son and leaving his brother fighting for his life as suspected arson.
Youngster Jack Sykes remained in a critical condition in hospital today as tributes were paid to nine-year-old brother Paul and father Darren, 44.
The trio were taken to hospital after being pulled from the burning property in Tennyson Close, Penistone, after the blaze broke out around 6.30pm on Wednesday night, but only 12-year-old Jack managed to survive his injuries.
His mother Claire was said to be keeping a bedside vigil next to him today.
Residents of the quiet cul-de-sac spoke of their shock as fire and police officers combed the scene for clues, painting carpet fitter Mr Sykes as a devoted father.
Retired security officer Barrie Hall, 73, said: “He was alright, he loved his kids. You’d hear him playing with his kids all the time. He’d play anything with him.
“The only thing I would say was he was a bigger kid than his kids, he played with them and you couldn’t help but notice there were three kids there.”
Neighbour Alan Shaw added: “It’s unbelievable really. I’m still in shock - you just don’t expect it to happen outside your own home.”
South Yorkshire Police has revealed initial investigations suggest the fire was started deliberately.
Chief inspector Debbie Mahmood confirmed the force was treating the blaze as suspicious but is not looking for anyone else in connection with it.
She said: “Initial enquiries are underway with colleagues in the fire service to determine the cause of this fire and are at a very early stage.
“This is a tragic incident in which a young child has lost his life and my thoughts and condolences are with the family of the young boys at this distressing time.
“Events like this have a profound effect on the wider community. We will have safer neighbourhood officers in the area available to speak to anyone affected by the tragic incident.”
Evidence of the blaze could be seen in the blackened and broken upstairs windows at the scene in the wake of the tragedy.
Mr Sykes is said to have lived alone in his semi-detached home after separation from the boys’ mother.
Next door, the other half of the semi-detached house also has all windows and doors open, and an elderly man living there was evacuated in the rescue operation.
Firefighters described the blaze as “well developed” upon their arrival.
Mr Hall said: “I’d come out of the park and seen the acrid smoke coming out of the house. We didn’t know until later that anybody was in there. It’s terrible.”
The Yorkshire Post understands the boys both attend Springvale School in Penistone, where Mrs Sykes is believed to be a school governor and safeguarding officer.