Two children whose pregnant mother was in the hospital were killed early Thursday when fire swept through their San Bernardino apartment.
Their father was critically injured in the fire.
Firefighters tried to revive the girl and boy, ages 2 and 6, but they were pronounced dead at a hospital, said Engineer Rodd Mascis of the San Bernardino City Fire Department. The children's father was hospitalized with critical injuries including burns and breathing difficulty.
Firefighters arriving at the apartment in the 200 block of West 14th Street about 3:05 a.m. heard the father screaming for help inside, Mascis said.
As they entered the smoky apartment, firefighters found the man lying in the ground. He was confused and unable to provide firefighters with details, he said.
Firefighters searched the home and found the children, who were unresponsive, hiding behind a couch.
They were likely scared, he said, and tried to find a safe place to hide.
"They were both together," he said. "It is very common for children to hide from a fire."
At an afternoon news conference, police said the family was living inside the home illegally. The apartment had been boarded up, but the family returned, police said.
"The people that were in the property were there basically illegally," San Bernardino Police Lt. Richard Lawhead told ABC-7.
"The electricity, water, gas had been turned off, but they had activated that again through illegal means," he said.
Lawhead told The Times that there were no working smoke detectors in the house and that there were numerous hazards, such as blocked doorways.
He said the house was in the foreclosure process.
Mascis said investigators believe the fire started in the kitchen area, but are still investigating the cause.
Family friend Arlene Gonzales told KTLA that the children's pregnant mother was hospitalized Wednesday night and was possibly going into labor with her third child.
She said the children were fun and loving.
"They would break your heart," Gonzales said.