A mother whose family home was petrol-bombed said she feared she would find five bodies as she raced back to the house.
Teresa Doyle was alerted to the fire at her home in Longford in a phone call as she took her daughter Laura (13) to Dublin in a taxi for dialysis.
Another of her daughters, Rachel (15), rang to tell her that she was trapped in the house by the flames with her sister Stephanie (18) and friend Chantelle (15) as well as Teresa's partner Noel Small and his daughter Amber (13).
"I was only gone as far as Mullingar when I got the call from Rachel screaming the house was on fire. Then the phone went dead," said Ms Doyle.
"I was in a panic. I got the driver to turn around. I thought when I got back to the house there would be five bodies in it," she added.
Luckily, a neighbour came to the rescue with a ladder which Mr Small and the girls could climb down and escape the burning house in Annaly Gardens.
It appears that Ms Doyle, who left her home at 6.30am for the hospital appointment, and her family were the innocent victims of a violent feud in the area.
The petrol-bombing on Monday is one of five linked firearms and arson attacks in the space of just a fortnight in Co Longford, where gangs are running amok.
The petrol bomb attack is being investigated as a case of mistaken identity and gardaí are hopeful of making arrests in the case because the person responsible set himself on fire while carrying out the sick crime.
Officers said were it not for the "quick-thinking actions" of the hero neighbour, who used a ladder to save the victims, a major tragedy could have happened.
"Whoever did this broke the glass in the front door and threw a petrol bomb onto the stairs. They did not want us to be able to escape," said Mr Small.
He added that Stephanie had run around the upstairs of the house waking everybody, screaming that the house was on fire.
"We looked down the stairs, there was no way down.
"So I got all the girls into the front bedroom and wedged the blankets from the bed under the door to try to stop the smoke coming in, but it kept coming," he told the Irish Independent.
"I pulled the headboard off the bed and tried to smash the main pane of glass in the window with it," Mr Small added. "We were all trying to breathe out of a small window."