Investigators have said that a Baltimore house fire that killed six children may have been caused by a faulty electric heater.
Fire chiefs said that while it was too early to say for certain, the cause of the Jan. 12 fire may have been a space heater used to keep the home warm. The six children who were killed in the blaze were siblings, aged 9 months to 11 years old, Daily Mail reports.
Katie Malone, the children’s mother, is a veteran staffer for Maryland House Representative Elijah Cummings. Katie’s husband, William Malone, said that he was at work while his wife and their nine children were at home. Katie and two children, aged 4 and 5, are in the hospital in critical condition.
The two younger children were saved from the fire by their older sister, Erin, 8, who is reportedly in “good shape,” according to fire department spokesman Roman Clark.
Firefighters were unable to rescue the remaining children, said Baltimore Fire Chief Niles Ford, according to CNN.
“[The firefighters] were exhausted. They were in the front yard on one knee, and they saw me and they said, ‘Chief, we did all we could,’ because they knew the kids were in the house,” said Niles.
The fire was reportedly so intense that it melted a car that was nearby.
Representative Cummings urged the community to pray for the Malone family in a statement.
“I am asking that our entire community pray for my staff member, Katie Malone, and her young family,” said Cummings. “I am grateful to the Baltimore City Fire Department and all those who responded quickly to the devastating fire. My staff is a family and this unimaginable tragedy is shocking and heartbreaking to us all. I again ask for your prayers.”
A GoFundMe account set up for the family has raised over $150,000.
Neighbor Robert Spencer recalled hearing the children yelling while they were trapped in the burning building.
“I heard the kids crying … I couldn’t save them,” said Spencer. “It was just too much fire.”
“You see how big the house is. That’s how big the fire was,” he added. “It was everywhere; it was coming from everywhere. You couldn’t do nothing.”
The family’s nine children have been pictured in a family photo online, which shows the siblings smiling on a porch. Grieving relatives identified the surviving children as Jack, Jane, and Erin.
Sources: Daily Mail, CNN, GoFundMe / Photo credit: Jennifer Franciotti/Twitter