SAN BERNARDINO, California (AP) - Six people, including four
children, died in a house fire while two girls and a man managed to
escape.
The victims, who were all related, included three girls ranging
in age from 8 to 12, a boy who was 4 or 5, and two women, said Fire
Department Battalion Chief Allen Simpson. No names were released.
Investigators believe an improperly extinguished cigarette may
have caused the fire early Monday, said Fire Department Battalion
Chief Howard Bennett.
Neighbors heard screams at about 3:20 a.m.
"I went outside to check what was going on and I just saw fire
everywhere," neighbor Mariela Mendez told KABC-TV in Los Angeles.
Mendez, 18, said she and her parents ran to the house and found
a man yelling "Open the door! Open the door!" at two girls
scrambling to open a metal security door. The girls finally managed
to open the door and escaped, Mendez said.
Simpson said the man who survived had been sleeping in the
garage.
Fourteen-year-old Erica Holmes stood behind yellow police tape
staring at the gutted home Monday morning.
"My two little sisters used to play down at their house,"
Holmes said.
San Bernardino is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) east of Los
Angeles.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)