Three kids injured in house fire

January 2, 2009 4:54:26 AM PST
Three young children are fighting for their lives following a New Years Eve tragedy in northwest Houston.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The children were left home alone at their grandparent's house on Marcella and Candletree when it caught fire just before the ringing in of the New Year.

It was a tragedy beyond any words. On a night when families rejoice, one north Houston family suffered immeasurable loss.

"You expect this to be your beginning of a new year and here it is a nightmare, it's sad," said the children's great uncle, Robert Smith.

Firefighters say the blaze started just before midnight. The grandparents, who were supposed to be caring for the children, told investigators they had gone to a corner store. When the couple arrived back, fire crews were already on the scene and the house was engulfed in flames.

"They did leave the residence for a short time, took two of the children with them but did leave three children at home," said Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Omero Longoria.

Family members say the grandfather immediately attempted to help, forsaking his own safety to run into the burning house.

"The fire people had to restrain him from going into that house," Smith said. "He went into that house against their will looking for those children, crawling on his hands and knees."

Firefighters eventually found the other children. All three had suffered smoke inhalation and they were quickly rushed to area hospitals. The eldest, a 9-year-old boy, had suffered second and third degree burns to 12 percent of his body. An 8-year-old girl received second degree burns to 5 percent of her body. The youngest child, a 4-year-old boy suffered breathing issues.

Word of the fire quickly spread through the neighborhood.

"I feel really bad about this whole situation, but I just keep praying for them and hope everything goes well," said family friend Armatha Green.

Family members say the grandparents often took care of the kids. They say it was the grandfather's wish to spend New Year's with the children. They say he's racked with guilt, thinking of the children's mother.

"You know that part is eating at him too, she left them with me and I let this happen," Smith said.

Child Protective Services is investigating the case. It says the family has no CPS history.

The two eldest children have been flown to a hospital in San Antonio. The youngest child remains at Texas Children's Hospital.

As for the cause of the fire, that remains under investigation.

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