A FIRE which claimed the life of a father and five of his children in Mid Wales was likely to have started near a log burner in the living room, an inquest has been told.

David Cuthbertson, 68, and sons Just Raine, 11, Reef Raine, 10, and Patch Raine, six, and his daughters Misty Raine, nine, and Gypsy Grey Raine, four, were killed when a blaze ripped through the family's farmhouse building, near Llangammarch Wells, on October 30, 2017.

Andrew Barkley, Senior Coroner for South and Central Wales, recorded a narrative verdict in the case, saying a number of factors could have been to blame, but that identifying a single cause of the incident was not possible.

The cause of death for Mr Cuthbertson and the children was recorded as smoke inhalation in each case.

The inquest at Welshpool Town Hall was told how one survivor had escaped through the front door and two others via a skylight window on the top floor before scrambling across a lean-to roof at the rear of the property and heading down to a neighbour's property to raise the alarm.

Senior fire officers from Llanwrtyd Wells described how they arrived at a "fully developed fire" at the house at around half past midnight.

Roger Smith, on-call crew manager whose team were first at the scene, said his initial assessment indicated the building was too dangerous to enter. He said half the building was "well alight" and there was evidence of backdraft conditions building at the rear of the property, which he was concerned could lead to an explosion if firefighters broke windows to gain entry.

"There was enormous radiated heat coming from the windows, and there were signs of collapse occurring inside," he said.

"The stairs were well alight, and items not immediately connected to the fire were beginning to show signs of pyrolysis (the release of gases prior to ignition due to heat).

"The temperatures inside the building were enormous. It was incredibly hot."

The hearing was told by fire investigators that temperatures in the building had melted copper pipes in the building, which had a melting point of 1,060 degrees centigrade, while thermal scans of debris outside the building in the aftermath had shown temperatures above 600c.

Written evidence from family and neighbours described how the log-burning fire in the lounge, the so-called 'Red Room', was lit constantly at the property as the house's only source of heating. Evidence from Mr Cuthbertson's son, Kit Cuthbertson, said his father had a nightly routine which involved checking the fire was safe before going up to bed.

In a written statement, Free Robyn Terry, 23, sister to the children who had died, told the inquest that she had smelt gas at the property for about two months before the fire.

Evidence from Eifion Davies, who was the landlord of the property, said that a kitchen stove was installed by Mr Cuthbertson around two years ago and was supplied by gas bottles stored outside the property.

David Hancock, Fire Investigation Manager for Mid and West Wales Fire Service, said investigators had found a mix of copper pipe and rubber tubing supplying gas to the appliance, which did not appear to have been secured with compression joints or jubilee clips.

However he ruled this out as a cause of the blaze, saying there was more evidence to suggest the fire had started elsewhere in the property, and the lack of an explosion was not consistent with a gas ignition.

He also said electrical issues at the property could not be ruled out as a cause, having found a "mix and match" system of wiring within the building, while there was also some evidence that petrol cans and a container of lighter fluid had been found in the debris, although specially trained dogs were unable to detect the presence of hydrocarbon fuel in the rubble.

He added that double doors on the log burner had been found in the open position and that it was impossible for them to have been blown open during the fire.

Andrew Barkley, Senior Coroner for South and Central Wales asked him: "Is it your view that due to the damage at the property you are unable to differentiate between these possibilities in order to identify a likely cause?"

Mr Hancock replied: "Yes, that's correct sir."

Family members were forced to leave the hearing as graphic details of the recovery of the deceased children's remains were read out to the court by Dr Julie Roberts, scientific lead for Cellmark Forensics who conducted the forensic investigation of the scene.

Officers from Dyfed-Powys Police said they had not ruled out the possibility of third party involvement in the fire, but said they had found no evidence of it so far. A police investigation is still ongoing.

In his summing up, the coroner paid tribute to the efforts of the emergency services at the scene, saying they conducted a "meticulous, painstaking search."

"It is likely on the evidence that we have heard that the fire started in the 'Red Room', however, we cannot say precisely what caused the fire or how exactly it started," he added.