updated 4/4/2006 10:47:48 AM ET 2006-04-04T14:47:48

Fire spread through an apartment building early Tuesday, killing four children as firefighters already in the neighborhood because of a car fire rushed to the scene.

People were hanging out of second- and third-story windows when the firefighters spotted smoke coming from a building down the street, Assistant Fire Chief Mike Darnell said. They had to call in a ladder truck to reach the building’s top floor, where the children were found.

The ages and identities of the children were not immediately known. Messages left with the coroner’s office were not immediately returned.

Firefighters found the young victims together in a room after rescuing a man from a third-floor window who said four of his children were still inside, Darnell said.

‘Get out of there!’
The cause of the fire wasn’t immediately clear, but arson investigators combing the rubble could be seen through the broken windows later Tuesday.

A sign posted in a street-level restaurant window in the building read: “Closed today due 2 our loss.”

Kevin Eubanks, a neighbor who manages the downstairs restaurant, said he woke up around 4:30 a.m. to the sound of screaming. When he saw the smoke, he ran outside and broke open a chain-link fence gate so people in the burning building could escape down an alley.

“I was yelling upstairs to the people, ’Get out of there!”’ Eubanks said.

Heavy smoke was pouring from a third-floor window, he said.

“One guy was hanging out the window on the front trying to jump down,” Eubanks said. “A fireman put him on his back.”

Eubanks said he had often seen the children running around the building.

“They were good kids. Beautiful children. It’s just tragic,” he said.

The neighborhood, a mix of dilapidated buildings and some new construction, has several older homes.

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