Two children were killed early today when fire broke out in the basement of their two-story brick rowhouse in the 1800 block of N. Montford Ave.
The deaths brought to 14 the number of people killed in city fires so far this year.
Found in their beds in the basement by firefighters and pronounced dead at the scene were Firmaine Moore, 15 months, and Alfred Purnell Simpson, 3.
Officer Richard Heymann arrived at the scene about 5:40 a.m. and saw heavy smoke and flames erupting from a basement window.
"I tried to get in," he said, "but the first floor was full of fire and I just couldn't do anything."
Moments later, firefighters manning nearly a dozen pieces of equipment arrived and attacked the fire.
Lt. Russell Shea said that there were 11 people in the house, including the two victims, but that the house was not equipped with a smoke detector.
He said the nine others, including the victims' mother, ran out the front and rear doors and that it appeared that no one in the house was able to reach the children.
The victims' mother, whose name was not immediately available, received minor injuries and was treated by an ambulance crew.
Lieutenant Shea said people were sleeping in bedrooms on both floors and in the basement when the fire broke out.
He said the fire apparently started in the basement and raced upstairs, causing $5,000 in damages to the rowhouse and another $1,000 in damage to the family's property.
Investigators determined that some clothes placed next to the electric space heater caught fire and spread to the rest of the basement, used as a bedroom by the two children and there mother, who was upstairs when the started. She told firefighters she tried but couldn't get back into the basement because of heavy smoke and flames.
The survivors found shelter with neighbors and friends.