A MANHUNT has been launched after three children were killed and a toddler was left fighting for her life in a devastating house fire.

Police are treating the blaze as arson and have launched a murder investigation. Detectives say they know who they are looking for and that he is known to the family.

Chief Superintendent Wayne Miller, territorial commander for GMP’s Salford borough, said: “I want to describe what this incident is; it’s the murder, using fire, of three children and we have a three-year-old girl fighting for her life who is seriously ill. This will devastate this family forever and words cannot describe what they are going through. We need the public’s help to find the answers the family deserve.

“We want to make arrests as soon as possible and we appeal to local people to help us in this.”

Emergency services rushed to Jackson Street, Walkden, shortly before 5am today after they were called by someone inside the house to reports of a fire. Firefighters raced to put out the blaze and rescue the people inside.

However, a14-year-old girl died at the scene and an eight-year-old boy and a seven-year-old girl died in hospital. The three-year-old girl is in a critical condition.

The 35-year-old mother of all the children is in a serious condition.

Two 16-year-old boys, including another of the mother's sons, managed to escape the house.

A joint investigation is being carried out by police and the fire service to determine what caused the fire.

Damien O’Rourke, of Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, said firefighters were greeted by a ‘horrid scene’.

Chief Supt Miller said: “The death of these three children is heartbreaking. Our thoughts are with their loved ones and the little girl and her mum who are in hospital fighting for their lives.

“We currently have specially trained officers with the family to help them through this devastating time. We have launched a murder investigation and have a suspect in mind who we are urgently seeking in relation to this attack. All I will say is — he knows who he is and he should give himself up.”

There had been incidents at the address in the 24 hours before the fire. Police had attended the house and as a result, Greater Manchester Police has referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Residents said they awoke to ‘manic’ scenes after the fire. Police put up metal barriers to stop people seeing the scene and a white tent had been erected in the street.

Officers also conducted door-to-door inquiries down Jackson Street as they tried to find out what had happened.

One resident told The Bolton News police had attended the house earlier at around 1am this morning.

A joint investigation is being carried out by police and the fire service to determine what caused the fire.

Fire investigation officers and police forensics officers were at the scene today.

Residents reacted with shock. Sandra Wilkinson lives in nearby St Mary’s Road. She said: “It was 4.30 am when I heard banging and screaming.

“I thought it was someone trying to break into our house. I didn’t think fire at first.”

Debbie Storey lives in Alexandra Road and had just returned from a weekend away when she saw all the police.

She said: “I don’t know the family personally.

“There are a lot of kids around here all the time, I see a lot of them out.

“It is really really sad. I hope the people that have done it can be found and brought to justice for killing children.”

Police are appealing for the public’s help in and are urging witnesses to come forward.

Ch Supt Miller said: “We are appealing for witnesses to the fire, anyone who saw anything or who may know the people involved to please come forward and tell us what you know.

“I stress, we are dealing with the murder of three children here. Any information, no matter how small, is very important to the family and the investigation.

“This is a fast moving live investigation and we have a Major Investigation Team with scores of dedicated detectives working tirelessly.

He added that police are keeping an open mind in regards to the motive and are leaving no stone unturned.

There was a large police and fire service presence at the scene throughout yesterday. Ch Supt Miller said there would be extra patrols in the area today.

Jackson Street was cordoned off throughout todayand Worsley Road North was also closed.

The road closure caused traffic chaos in Farnworth, Walkden and into Bolton.

One of the children attended Harrop Fold School.

Executive head teacher, Drew Povey, said: “We are devastated at the tragic loss of life today in our community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family involved.”

Contact police on 0161 856 8797 alternatively call 101 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.