WCTI-TV spoke with witnesses who reported the blaze started just after 5 a.m. on Highway 17 on the outskirts of Jacksonville near the intersection with Old Maplehurst Road.
Samuel and Johnetta Pittman rented the home.
There were a total of nine people in the home - eight children and their mother, Johnetta. Samuel Pittman was at work at the time.
Officials said that 7-year-old Gabriel, 9-year-old Elijah and 12-year-old Tabitha died in the fire.
Johnathan, 4, was treated and released. Hanna, 10, was taken to the UNC Burn Center. Samantha, 16, and Adrianne and Gabrielle, both 14, were taken to New Hanover Regional Medical Center. Johnetta was also taken to UNC.
Two deputies responding to the fire were treated for smoke inhalation.