Three people whose bodies were found in a burning south Nanaimo home have been identified as a seven-year-old and her parents.

Amberlee Scarr, Jason Stephenson and their daughter Piper Stephenson were found dead in a laneway house on Nicol Street Tuesday afternoon.

A family member confirmed their identities to CTV Vancouver Island the next day.

Their bodies were found after neighbours reported a fire at the home, but it is still unclear what caused their deaths and what sparked the fire.

Neighbours initially reported hearing shouts and the sound of an explosion, but police clarified Wednesday that the noise they'd heard was a bystander who'd noticed smoke pouring from the house and tried to get people to come outside.

Mike McLaughlin was one of the first at the scene. The landscaper was working nearby when he noticed the smoke.

"The first thing on our mind was, 'Can we get anyone out?'" he recalled.

A neighbour tried to warn those inside, and another person kicked in the back door and windows trying to get in.

Minutes later, firefighters and police arrived at the home, but it was too late. They found the bodies of two adults and a child inside.

Multiple sources told CTV the family lived in the home where their bodies were found, and that at one point the parents had been in a custody battle over the child. But friends said Scarr had recently moved back into the home where the father and daughter lived.

A neighbour said he's heard loud arguments at the home, including on the night before and the morning of the fatal fire. He said he'd heard both parents threaten to leave.

Others described the young girl, who was loved immensely by her parents.

"It seemed like a wonderful family that something extremely tragic happened to," next-door neighbour Carolyn Butula said.

But exactly what happened to the family is still unknown.

Mounties have remained tight-lipped in their investigation, and have not confirmed the identities. The RCMP said only that they'd recovered the bodies of two adults and a seven-year-old.

At a news conference Wednesday, Cpl. Jon Stuart said they had no information on the deceased, and did not know why Piper hadn't been in school.

They said she attended a school in the area and that the district had been notified of her death.

Officials have not yet provided the cause of the deaths or of the fire. They said the investigation is ongoing and is expected to take some time.

Police are speaking with neighbours and the coroner to determine what happened. Stuart said it could be several days, if not weeks, before they know more.

"Any time a life is lost, it's difficult on the community and the officers and the firefighters and first responders involved… particularly that of a child," Stuart said.

"The innocence of youth affects everybody."

There is nothing to suggest anyone else was involved in the fire, but it is being considered suspicious until a point of origin is determined.

Because of the relatively small size of the fire, he said crews likely didn't expect to find bodies, but that first responders never anticipate deaths in cases like this. Stuart added that smoke inhalation can kill people very quickly, but would not speculate on the cause of their deaths.

Police said there is nothing to suggest foul play at this point, but that they're not yet ready to rule it out.

Stuart said he did not yet know whether there were working smoke detectors in the home.

With files from CTV Vancouver Island