A fire ripped through an apartment complex early Friday in Hemet, killing two children and their father who had rushed back into the burning building to try to save them.
Investigators think that the predawn fire started in the unit where a family of seven lived, including two girls, ages 4 and 12, and their 41-year-old father, all of whom were pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities said an 8-year-old child is in grave condition.
“Our hearts go out to the family,” Hemet police Lt. Nate Miller said. “It’s my understanding that the 41-year-old male went back inside to rescue other family members. He wasn’t seen alive after that.”
The fire broke out just after 1:15 a.m. Video shows flames raging from a second-story apartment unit and thick smoke encompassing the block of Alessandro Street near Latham Avenue. Firefighters rushed inside the complex as residents fled from the flames. Two people can be seen in the video wrapped in a blanket, crying.
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. According to Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown, investigators with the Hemet police and fire departments and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will examine electrical and mechanical issues as potential causes, even the possibility of a spark from the Christmas tree.
“The bottom line for us is that we’ve lost three people,” Brown said. “It’s a terrible tragedy.”
The complex is home to roughly 40 people.