A father and the two daughters who he tried to rescue perished Friday morning in a Southern California apartment fire, officials said.
The unidentified father of five got out of the dwelling, then rushed back in to assist other family members, according to police in the city of Hemet. The 41-year-old father died along with two daughters, ages 4 and 12.
An 8-year-old son is reported to be in grave condition. A baby, an 11-year-old girl and the children’s mother survived the predawn fire, according to Hemet police Lt. Nate Miller.
Several attempts to rescue the family of seven were made, according to Hemet Fire Chief Scott Brown. Firefighters were hampered by heavy fire and overhead power lines that prevented them from extending ladders, Brown said in a press conference.
“Our hearts bleed for the family,” Brown said.
Firefighters’ primary focus now is the investigation, which will look at all possible causes, including a Christmas tree.
Officials believe the fire started in the family’s apartment and a criminal cause is not suspected, Miller said.
According to Lt. Jeff Davis of the Hemet Fire Department, 45 residents were displaced from the 25-unit, two-story apartment building. Davis said the Red Cross is assisting with providing shelter for some residents while other residents were able to make arrangements for a place to stay.
Hemet is about 70 miles east of Los Angeles.