Four children rescued from house fire in critical condition

- Fire investigators worked Tuesday to pinpoint the cause of a South Los Angeles house fire that left four children ranging in age from 2 to 7 hospitalized in critical condition.

The flames erupted just after 10:50 p.m. Monday in a one-story bungalow at 861 W. Manchester Ave., near Vermont Avenue, said Brian Humphrey of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Arriving firefighters found heavy fire showing from the front portion of the 432-square-foot home, which did not have electricity, said the LAFD's Margaret Stewart. She declined to comment on reports that investigators were looking into whether alternate sources of heat or light were being used, such as candles or kerosene heaters.

"As first-arriving LAFD crews sprinted toward the home with hoselines and ladders, bystanders shouted that several people remained trapped inside the freely burning residence, which was almost entirely secured with window security bars and steel screen doors,'' Humphrey said.

Circling to the rear side of the building, one firefighter forced open a window with no bars and climbed into the home to rescue the four children, Humphrey said.

"Handing the badly injured and nearly lifeless siblings from zero-visibility conditions within to waiting colleagues outside, the firefighter was himself able to escape unharmed before the room spiraled to a temperature that would have assuredly taken the children's lives,'' Humphrey said.

The children's mother, who returned from a local errand to find the house ablaze, looked on as teams of paramedics gave care to her severely burned 2-, 3- and 5-year-old sons and 7-year-old daughter, Humphrey said.

A dog was found dead at or near the fire scene, but it was unclear if the animal died from the fire.

The 90 assigned firefighters confined the fire to the structure and extinguished the flames in 16 minutes, Humphrey said. Crews remained on scene for hours to guard against flare-ups and to help salvage possessions, he said.

"Though the 93-year-old home was equipped with at least one smoke alarm, its functional status at the time of the fire could not be immediately determined,'' Humphrey said, adding the residence was not equipped with residential fire sprinklers.

He said volunteers from the Mayor's Crisis Response Team and American Red Cross provided support at the scene, and at the hospital, to the children's mother and grandmother.

The cause of the blaze was under investigation by the LAFD's Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section, Humphrey said.

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