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SEVERAL DIE IN ONTARIO HOUSE FIRE

Several family members died when fire ripped through a single-family home Monday night west of St. Catharines, Ont., Niagara Regional Police said today.

The exact number of dead is unknown, but some neighbors told police as many as seven children and one adult are believed to have died. Other neighbors said five people are dead.

"We're looking at multiple deaths, but we are not able to confirm any numbers," Niagara Regional Police spokesman Constable Richard Geady said today. "At this time, we have not been able to get inside what remains of the 1 1/2 -story home. The deceased are still inside the home."

The blaze erupted at 11:22 p.m. at the home in West Lincoln. Volunteer firefighters from the Pelham and West Lincoln Fire Departments arrived at the home and found flames erupting from the structure. About 40 firefighters -- with aerial ladder trucks and pumpers -- battled the blaze. Firefighters brought the fire under control at about 12:22 a.m. .

No damage estimate has been released, but officials said the home is a total loss. Police said the extensive damage to the house is slowing their investigation. Heavy equipment was due to arrive this morning to help emergency personnel determine the cause of the fire.

e-mail: vthomas@buffnews.com

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