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Three family members, two dogs die in house fire near Philadelphia

By Allen Cone
Killed in a house fire in Quackerstown, Pa., were Eric King, sons Liam and Patrick, with mother Kristin and elder son, Brady, escaping with minor injuries. Photo courtesy GoFundMe/Quackerstown School Disrict
Killed in a house fire in Quackerstown, Pa., were Eric King, sons Liam and Patrick, with mother Kristin and elder son, Brady, escaping with minor injuries. Photo courtesy GoFundMe/Quackerstown School Disrict

Dec. 25 (UPI) -- Three members of one family -- a dad and two sons -- died early Christmas Day in a house fire near Philadelphia that investigators say may have been caused by electrical issues and a dry Christmas tree.

Police and fire were dispatched to the house at 1:22 a.m. Saturday in Quarterstown, which is about 47 miles north of Philadelpia. Five family members were asleep on the second floor, Fire Marshal Doug Wilhelm told CNN.

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Eric King, 41, and his two sons, Liam, 11, and Patrick, 8, died, as well as two dogs. The mother, Kristin and the family's eldest son, Brady, an eighth-grader, escaped with minor burns, and were treated and release at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

"The area of origin was a Christmas tree, so we're not sure if it's because of electric or a dried up old Christmas tree," Wilhelmtold CNN.

First responders had a tough time time entering the house due to the magnitude of the blaze, the fire marshal said.

"It was too dangerous to get inside on the front side of the building with the fire," Wilhelm told CNN. "The front door and front window were blocked, fire was advancing to the entire home at that point. It was very difficult for firefighters to make a safe entry. It took a while."

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Police Chief Scott McElree said the wooden stick-frame construction also likely helped the fire move quickly.

"A Christmas tree burns very quickly and very hot," McElree told the Courier Times. "When tree go dry, its a violent and robust source. There is an immense amount of heat and that probably contributed."

A GoFundMe page created in support of the King family has raised more than $200,000.

"Eric and Kristin were high school sweethearts and the happiest people you will have ever met," the post on GoFundMe said. "They were always smiling and full of positive spirits, you just couldn't help but to love them. The three boys, Eric and Kristin were all a huge part of the Quakertown Youth Baseball Association and spent their days and nights at the baseball fields."

The Quakertown School District posted on Facebook: This news is devastating for the District community and the Quakertown area at-large.

"Eric and Kristin are very active in the community and the kind of people who make this a special place to live and attend school."

The fire also destroyed a home next door.

"I couldn't see anybody, so I thought that they got everyone out, but it was kind of sad," Wilson Martinez of Quakertown told WPVI-TV. " Really sad to realize that not everybody was saved," said Wilson Martinez of Quakertown.

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