NEWS
12/15/2016 08:45 EST | Updated 12/16/2017 00:12 EST

Search continues for missing residents in house fire on Ontario First Nation

ONEIDA NATION OF THE THAMES, Ont. — Ontario Provincial Police say investigators are on the site of a house fire on a First Nation where several people remain unaccounted for, but they haven't entered the home because the structure is unstable.

OPP Sgt. Peter Leon says the home on the Oneida Nation of the Thames, southwest of London, was engulfed in flames around 11 a.m. on Wednesday.

Leon says the cause of the fire remains unknown.

Police won't say how many people remain unaccounted for, deferring to the local band council, which is expected to release more information Thursday afternoon.

Oneida Chief Randall Phillips said the First Nation is "dealing with a lot," but wouldn't elaborate.

A woman who identified herself as a distant family member said a father and his children, including a newborn baby, were believed to have died in the fire.

"From what I understand it was four children," the woman said. "The baby was in there."

While the identities of the people affected by the fire have not been released, calls for donations to support the Doxtator Antone family were posted online on Thursday.

In nearby London, Ont., the N'Amerind Friendship Centre identified the family as the one which "experienced tragedy" on the Oneida Nation a day earlier.

"They lost everything in a house fire including family members," the centre said in a call for donations of clothing, boots and coats.

The centre was looking specifically for donations for three boys — aged six, eight and nine — a 12-year-old girl, and the children's mother.

"We're just trying to pull our community together, to be there for them, for the family, at this time of year especially," said Adrienna Antone, who isn't related to the family but works at the centre and is helping collect donations.

"The kids that are remaining, we would like to assist them in that. That's why we put out the call for donations."

A GoFundMe page set up for the Doxtator Antone family also put out a call for funds to help the affected family.

"My sister's house caught fire yesterday morning. She lost her partner and 4 of her 8 children," a message on the campaign page said.

Roads around the home that had caught fire were blocked off on Wednesday as firefighters inspected the damage. The second floor of the two-storey home had partially collapsed, the roof had caved in and much of the exterior had been blackened by the flames.

Perry Elijah, who knew the family, said news of the fire had hit him hard.

"They were a young couple. They were just starting out," said the 58-year-old. "You really don't want to see nothing like this happen....You don’t expect it here but it did"

The fire came hours after a deadly blaze killed four family members in the southern Ontario community of Port Colborne.

Friends and family have identified the victims of that house fire as a 37-year-old mother and her two children, aged 15 and 2, and the woman's 83-year-old grandmother.

— With files from Diana Mehta and Liam Casey in Toronto.