Five children were killed in a fire in East St. Louis, Illinois, fire chief says

The scene of a fire in East St. Louis, Illinois.

(CNN)Five children between the ages of 2 and 9 were killed in a fire early Friday in East St. Louis, Illinois, according to fire officials.

The fire broke out at an apartment building at 29th and State streets shortly before 3 a.m., CNN affiliate KMOV reported.
Fire Chief Jason Blackmon confirmed five children died, telling CNN that firefighters were able to rescue three before they died of smoke inhalation. Two children died inside the structure, two in an ambulance and one on the way to the hospital, Blackmon said.
      Multiple families lived in the building, but KMOV reported that all of the children were from the same family.
        "They are blameless in this. They're just kids. It's tough," Assistant Fire Chief George McClellan told the station.
            The mother had left home to pick someone up, McClellan said. When she returned, she tried to enter the burning building several times to rescue the children.
            No one else was hurt in the fire, KMOV reported. Officials said the cause remains under investigation.