SAN BERNARDINO ( — An apartment fire claimed the lives of two children early Thursday morning.

The fire was reported at 3:05 a.m. at a duplex in the 200 block of W. 14 Street in San Bernardino, fire officials said.

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“First-in companies arrived on scene and they could hear an adult male inside screaming for help,” Engineer Rodd Mascis said.

Firefighters rescued the child’s father, a man in his 40s, who suffered burns over a large portion of his body. He was transported to Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in critical condition, the SBFD said.

While searching the apartment, firefighters discovered Candra Leetch, 6, and her 2-year-old brother hiding behind a couch in the living room.

“Those children were unconscious and not breathing when our firefighter paramedics located them inside the burning apartment,” Mascias said.

Candra Leetch (credit: San Bernardino City Unified School District)

Candra Leetch (credit: San Bernardino City Unified School District)

Paramedics tried to revive the young victims who suffered from smoke inhalation and burns over their entire bodies. The children were pronounced dead at the hospital.

The children’s mother, Angelica Suarez, was in labor at a San Bernardino hospital at the time of the fire, a neighbor said.

“She’s bringing one into this world and she lost two of them.  So it’s really bad for them, just feels really bad for the family,” family friend Arlene Gonzales said.

According to San Bernardino police, officers visited the home on Nov. 10 and noted several violations including inaccurate lighting and ventilation, blocked entrances/exits and unsanitary conditions.

No firefighters were injured.

Neighbors told CBS2’s Tom Wait they tried in vain to get the kids out of the burning apartment.

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Witnesses told Wait the fire seemed to go from a spark to an inferno in seconds.

Wait also reported the family had been evicted from the bank-owned property several months ago and were living there illegally.

A family member named Josh spoke to KCAL9.

“Any parent would find a roof for their children. That’s what my uncle did, he found a roof for his kids,” said Josh.

He later wailed, “Whhhhyyyyyy?”

The family was apparently using an illegal source of electricity to power the apartment.

The mom has given birth and been made aware that her other two children died in the fire.

KCAL9’s Crystal Cruz picked up the story Thursday evening.

Investigators told her the fire likely started in the kitchen.

Neighbors were touched by the tragedy throughout the day the night.

“It hurt my head so bad I decided we were going to come and say a prayer because it’s two little babies. They didn’t have a chance to live,” said a neighbor named Susan.


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