Officials are investigating whether a structure in Sylmar where a fire early Monday killed a father and his two children may have been an illegal dwelling.
The fire began in what was described as a two-story "metal-clad, barn-like home" that had no smoke alarms, said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore.
Firefighters arrived in the 13700 block of Eldridge Avenue to find a mother huddled with her son and daughter, and the father in a nearby hallway. None of them was breathing or had a pulse. The father and two children were pronounced dead at a local hospital. The mother, meanwhile, is in grave condition.
"We're in the process of trying to determine whether or not this was a legal dwelling," Moore said. "Just looking at the type of construction, we're alarmed by what we're seeing."
He added that the metal-clad construction and lack of fire alarms could be indicators that the building was not built to code.
A large low-slung building attached to the residence appeared to be used as a work shed, Moore said, with tools and equipment found inside.
Fire investigators are working with officials from the Los Angeles Building and Safety Department, as well as the Bureau of Fire Prevention and Public Safety, to determine the structure's status.
The fire was reported about 4:37 a.m. in a neighborhood full of single-family residences.