SILSBEE - A mother and her five children perished together in an overnight fire in a small apartment behind a Hardin County home early Wednesday morning.
Ashley Pickering, 31, died in the fire at an apartment behind a home on Fountain Drive north of Silsbee according to the family's pastor, Randy Feldschau, of Cathedral in the Pines Church in Beaumont.
Her children Camden Mattox, 3, twins Cavence and Cash Mattox, 4, Serenity Mattox, 7 and Christian Mattox, 11, also died in the fire according to Feldschau.
"They are still in a state of shock and asking for prayers across the nation," said Feldschau. "They have so many questions they are trying to understand this tragedy to lose a daughter and five grandchildren at the same time is very difficult."
Silsbee fire Chief Robin Jones told 12News that he believed the family was asleep but then awoke and tried to escape the fire.
Their bodies were found scattered around the apartment he said.
The twin boys would have turned five next week he said.
Pickering and her children had been living in the apartment, which was in a shop that had been converted into a living space, behind her parents home for about a year according to Feldschau.
Initial investigations indicate that the fire was accidental in nature and no foul play is suspected according to Hardin County Precinct Two Justice of the Peace Charles Brewer.
A neighbor saw flames and called the Silsbee Fire Department just after midnight according to the Hardin County Sheriff's Office.
Pickering's parents were also awakened by neighbors and by the time they got outside the structure was fully engulfed in flames.
"Ashley just had a really big heart a kind heart and she just saw the best in everyone and believed in people,"
Hardin County Sheriff Mark Davis told 12News that it was a "very emotional scene… It’s very tough. We got the first alarm call came on the fire about 12:15 this morning."
"While they’re working to extinguish the fire, they began to find victims in the rubble... in the remains of the apartment that’s here," Davis said.
Prayer vigils for Pickering and her children will take place Wednesday evening at Silsbee High School at 6:30 p.m. as well as at Cathedral in the Pines Church in Beaumont at 6:30 p.m.
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