Four children were killed and a 9-year-old boy escaped by dropping from a second-story window last night after a fire broke out in their Prince George's County home, where they had been left unsupervised.
"I couldn't do anything to help them," said Frank Watson, a next-door neighbor in the 5000 block of Glassmanor Drive in Oxon Hill, holding back tears. "We tried so hard."
The five children were alone in the brick duplex house when the fire broke out on the first floor, said county Fire Department Capt. Ron Siarnicki.
Firefighters found the four bodies -- a 6-month-old girl, 1-year-old boy, and a boy and girl, both age 2 -- on the second floor, said county Fire Chief Steven Edwards.
Captain Siarnicki said the fire broke out in the kitchen, where the children had prepared some food, and spread quickly throughout the house and up the stairs.
The exact cause of the blaze remained under investigation.
He said while all the children were part of the same family, it was unclear how they were related.
A 17-year-old and 13-year-old had been left in charge of the children, but had left the house before the fire. The children's mother was at work, Captain Siarnicki said.
Neighbors said the family had moved into the house only a day earlier.
Mr. Watson and another neighbor, Bill McCreary, saw the smoke and flames coming from the windows of the home and called the Fire Department, then grabbed a ladder and ran to attempt a rescue.
The 9-year-old was hanging from a second-story window, the men said.
"We yelled to him just to jump," Mr. McCreary said. "We hadn't gotten the ladder to the window yet and the smoke was coming from behind him."
The boy landed on the grass, apparently unharmed, Mr. McCreary said.
"He told us there were more kids in the house," Mr. Watson said.
"One of the guys went up the ladder but had to come down because the smoke was so bad. A second man went up and punched his fist through the window and pulled the frame out, but the flames started wrapping around the house and he had to come down."
One firefighter was flown to Washington Hospital Center with second-degree burns over 10 percent of his body, Chief Edwards said.
Two others were treated at the scene for cuts.