Updated: Tuesday, 15 Dec 2009, 1:59 PM EST
Published : Tuesday, 15 Dec 2009, 12:35 PM EST
BURTCHVILLE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - A fire swept through a St. Clair County home early Tuesday, killing a man and two young children he was trying to rescue even as neighbors also tried to save them, authorities said. His wife and a girl escaped.
The 36-year-old man, a 4-year-old boy and an 8-month-old girl died after the two-story home caught fire about 12:30 a.m. in Burtchville Township, about 60 miles northeast of Detroit, Sheriff Tim Donnellon said.
"He was overcome by smoke in their (the children's) bedroom," Donnellon said.
His 27-year-old wife escaped from a second-floor window with help from a neighbor and a 12-year-old girl who was sleeping on the first floor either climbed out a window or escaped through a door, Donnellon said.
Names weren't immediately released, but Donnellon said the man, his wife and three children had been living at the rental home.
Next-door-neighbor Christina Pringle brought a ladder to help before emergency crews arrived.
"There was a ton of black smoke billowing out from the upstairs window where the lady was," Pringle, 45, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "When we tried to get to the other side of the house there were flames shooting out."
The sound of screams from the home had awakened Pringle, her son and her daughter-in-law, Pringle said. After helping the woman from the home, Pringle said they tried unsuccessfully to reach the other children.
The house was fully engulfed in flames when emergency crews arrived. The cause of the fire wasn't immediately known and investigators remained at the scene around midday.
The man and woman were asleep in a second-floor bedroom when they were awakened by the fire, Donnellon said. The man's body was found in a bedroom across the hall where the boy and infant had been sleeping, he said.
Burtchville Township firefighters got the boy and infant out of the home shortly after arriving, but they didn't survive, Donnellon said.
Pringle said her neighbors had moved into the home earlier this year.