Another child, who is 6, was thrown to safety by his mother from a second-floor window as the fire burned Tuesday night in a duplex in Conyers, east of Atlanta.
“It saved his life,” Glenn Allen, a spokesman for Georgia’s fire commissioner, told The Associated Press. The thrown child injured his shoulder in the fall but survived.
The mother was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta with second- and third-degree burns, Allen said.
Seven people were in the home: a grandmother, the mother and five children, Allen said. The children who died were ages 9, 7, 3 and eight months, Conyers police Major Mike Waters told reporters.
Neighbor Lamonta Stroud, 18, said he ran to the duplex, smashing windows and pleading with the children to come to a bathroom and escape.
“I just started hitting windows, breaking windows, breaking windows, screaming ‘come to the bathroom, come to the bathroom, I can get you all out, come to the bathroom, I can get you all out,’” Stroud recalled. “All I heard was stuff cracking and falling and just fire — so much was going on.”
He said a little girl was at a window, but would not jump, possibly because she was scared.
“There really wasn’t that much I could do,” Stroud recalled in a soft voice. “I tried.”
The children were in one unit of a two-story duplex in the town about 25 miles east of Atlanta. The other unit of the duplex was vacant, Allen said.
Officers arrived on the scene quickly after the fire was reported around 11 p.m. and tried unsuccessfully to put it out with handheld fire extinguishers, Conyers Police Chief Gene Wilson told WXIA-TV.
By the time firefighters arrive, the home was fully engulfed by flames, said Dan Morgan, chief of Rockdale County Fire and Rescue.
“They had flames coming out at least two windows, one on the back side, and they entered the home, went upstairs and extinguished the fire while another crew retrieved the children and brought them out to try to revive them,” Morgan told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
There was no indication as to what caused the blaze, Allen said before daybreak Wednesday. He said fire investigators planned to enter the structure at first light and try to find a cause.
Stroud said he knew the family well, and one of the girls who died was his sister’s best friend.
“All the kids out here are like a family,” he said. “And it hurts us all when we see something like this happen... It’s like my little brothers and sisters are gone now.”