A woman has been arrested on suspicion of murder after five children died in a house fire.
A sixth child was taken to hospital for specialist treatment after the blaze at a semi-detached house at Allenton in Derby.
The children’s parents, neighbours and firefighters fought to rescue them from the first floor of the council house.
Derbyshire’s Assistant Chief Constable Steve Cotterill said the father, named locally as Mick Philpott, had made a “valiant attempt” to save the youngsters, who were aged between five and 10.
“Our thoughts are with the parents and the family of the children for their tragic loss and for the community of Allenton, who would of course have known the children as they played,” he said.
Mr Cotterill said eight people were living in the house on a permanent basis, though there might be other people who stayed there on an ad hoc basis. It is understood Mr Philpott was father to 17 children.
The woman who was arrested is aged in her 20s, and police were yesterday continuing to work with the fire service to try to establish the cause of the blaze. Mr Cotterill said he was not prepared to speculate on what that was.
The children had been asleep upstairs.
The five children who died were named by Derbyshire Police as Jade Philpott, 10, John Philpott, nine, Jack Philpott, seven, Jessie Philpott, six, and Jayden Philpott, five.
All five went to St George’s Catholic Primary School in Littleover, Derby.
A statement from the school said: “We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and community at this sad time.
“Whilst this is under police investigation, we are unable to make further comment.”
The whole of Victory Road was yesterday placed under a police cordon and a number of fire service and police vehicles were parked outside the semi-detached house.
Two upstairs windows at the front of the property were open and at the back, which borders a Sainsbury’s supermarket, the upstairs windows were blackened and smashed.
Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service chief fire officer Sean Frayne said 30 firefighters were sent to the scene.
“The crews worked extremely hard in very difficult circumstances and very quickly located six casualties,” he added. “They moved the six casualties to open air, where they worked with our colleagues in the ambulance service to try to resuscitate.
“Unfortunately this has had a huge effect not only on the community but certainly within the fire and rescue service and other emergency services that were in attendance.”
Daniel Walsh, who said he had been a friend of Mr Philpott for many years, visited the scene to lay a bunch flowers.
He said the fire was “shocking”, adding: “It’s absolutely tragic. Any parent’s worst nightmare.
“I didn’t know his younger children. He had many children, as everybody knows, and he loved them all the same, no doubt. It’s just a tragic loss.”
A neighbour, who gave her name only as Kaye, said she saw flames coming out of the house and “loads of ambulances”, and described it as a “horrible, horrible” scene.
“I just saw the babies going to the ambulance because it was parked outside our house,” she said. “The children are friends with my kids. They played with my children. They were OK, good kids.”
Throughout yesterday pile of floral bouquets left in tribute to the children grew steadily.
Evidence of the damage caused by the fire could be seen on the front wall of the house, mainly on the right-hand side.
Julia Bosworth, a friend of the family, visited the house to lay a bunch of flowers in memory of the children. She said: “They were brilliant kids. Lovely kids, dead polite, always well behaved, well dressed, clean. I’m really sad. I’ve got six kids myself, I just can’t imagine it.”