“Four people are missing. We fear that three may have died in the fire. The fourth person may have left the area earlier and we haven’t been able to confirm where the person is,” Lars Anderman of the Norrtälje emergency services told the TT news agency.
The facility was home to nine people, eight of whom were taken to hospital following the fire, which broke out around midnight and prompted firefighters from four different stations to respond.
The initial response was delayed by 15 minutes, however, as local fire crews were responding to a report of a drowning when the fire was first reported.
“When we arrived a hole had already burned through the roof. The fire moved incredibly fast, so we don’t know what happened,” emergency crew leader Tony Granberg told the Aftonbladet newspaper.
Police remain cautious about giving exact figures on how many residents of the youth home may be missing.
“We’re still not totally sure about who is missing and we’re working to figure that out. We’re working with those who run the home to determine how many were in the house to begin with,” Stockholm policewoman Towe Hägg told TT.
Firefighters who attempted to enter the home when battling the fierce blaze were forced to turn back from the raging flames.
Despite fire crews best efforts, the home eventually burned to the ground. A forensic investigation is set to be launched as soon as the ashes have cooled.
“Police have launched a preliminary arson investigation,” said Anderman.
“It was an unusually strong and fast-moving fire.”
The home was one of 400 youth homes in Sweden referred to as HVB homes (hem för vård eller boende) which house children and young people who cannot live with their families. Many residents enter the homes voluntarily with support of social services, while others are involuntarily committed under Sweden’s Care of Young Persons Act (Lag med särskilda bestämmelser om vård av unga – LVU).
According to the municipality, the three-storey house was built in 1918 and was designated for young adults with special psychiatric needs.