Three brothers killed in a house fire in Brampton, Ont., this week were remembered Friday as tight-knit and "delightfully rambunctious."
The boys were identified in a statement shared by police on behalf of the family as 15-year-old Coen Bagan-Overholt and his brothers, Riley, 12, and Alex, 9. They're survived by their mother, Heather Bagan, and two other siblings.
"Heather’s boys were a delightfully rambunctious bunch, but they were also a tribe of their own. Brothers and young boys that can most definitely be described as incredibly kind, always caring, affectionate, and more than anything, deeply loved," the statement reads.
The fire broke out Thursday morning while Bagan was taking her youngest child to daycare, the statement said, and came home to find her home had been "gutted."
"First responders made valiant efforts to rescue them, and we thank them for their bravery and attempts," it reads.
The statement describes Coen as "witty" and ever-smiling, Riley as quietly "spunky" and "observant", and Alex as "silly" and "happy-go-lucky."
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said the community is devastated by the fire.
"You go home and you just want to hold your children tighter because it's just harrowing," he said.
Brown, who said he was briefed on the incident twice on Thursday, said one of the brothers called 911 to report the blaze, but firefighters couldn't get there in time.
He said the boy told the emergency dispatcher that he was stuck in the house, and "pleaded for help."
"They got to the house six minutes after ... the 911 call was dialed, but they weren't able to save the children," he said. "We had one firefighter that actually injured himself, put his own life at risk, trying to get into the house to try to rescue the children."
The boys died after being taken to hospital, while the firefighter who was injured was treated at the scene by paramedics.
The local fire department and Office of the Fire Marshal continue to investigate the cause of the blaze.
It is one of five fatal fires across Ontario that have together claimed 15 lives so far this month.
The Office of the Fire Marshal, which is tasked with investigating such fires in the province, said the numbers of both fatal fires and deaths have dipped compared to January of last year, but there are significantly more deaths than in January 2020.
Deputy Fire Marshal Tim Beckett said that in January 2020, there were 10 fatal fires that left a total of 11 people dead, while in January 2021, 15 fires left 22 people dead.
"November, December and January are typically colder months, and are most often when we see our fatal fires occurring," he said. "(There's) a lot of concern around fire safety in those months."
Beckett said fires are more common in the winter because people are more likely to use space heaters or smoke indoors.
He said the number of fires that have left more than one person dead this year is "trending up."
Beckett said it's too soon to comment on the specifics of any of the fires that have happened in January, beyond what officials have already said publicly.
In addition to the Brampton fire, the OFM is investigating a blaze that left two people dead in Toronto on Wednesday night, one that left three children dead on Sandy Lake First Nation last week, and an explosion in Ottawa that killed six.
While the cause of this month's fires have yet to be determined, Beckett said there are some best practices people should follow when it comes to fire safety.
He said people should get new smoke alarms every 10 years, check smoke alarm batteries every year, and test the detectors monthly.
They should also be sure to turn off space heaters when they leave a room, and double check that any heaters they have are certified by the CSA Group.
Heavy snow in southern Ontario may also block vents, which could lead to a buildup of carbon monoxide, he said, so residents should check on that as well.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2022.
Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press