OKLAHOMA CITY --
Firefighters are investigating the cause of an early-morning house fire in the southeast part of Oklahoma City that killed a man and tow girls.
About 2:45 a.m. Friday, neighbors called 911 to report flames shooting from the windows at the house near Southeast 44th Avenue and Shallow Brook Drive.
While crews were on their way to the scene, neighbors began breaking windows and kicking in doors, but the smoke was too heavy for the neighbors to go inside the house. When crews arrived, firefighters were forced to take a defensive stance, battling the flames from outside of the home, Oklahoma City Deputy Fire Chief Cecil Clay said.
"The house was well involved," Clay said. "It had fire coming out of the front and the back."
When it was safe for crews to go inside, rescuers searched the home for victims, Clay said. John Hazel, 29, Tyler Brown and Paris Hazel were killed in the fire.
Neighbors said John Hazel went back into the house to try to rescue the girls, but the roof collapsed on him.
John Hazel's fiancee, Angie, was taken to a hospital. Neighbors had helped pull her out of the house through a window.
"We couldn't walk in so we started busting the windows out and that's when we saw the mother on the bottom of the floor," said neighbor Jose Rodriguez.
A man suffered minor injuries while trying to get inside the house to wake up the residents.
At least one smoke detector was located inside the home, but it did not have a working battery, authorities said.
Arson investigators and police are at the scene looking for what caused the blaze. They said it appeared to have started in the back of the house.
Firefighters have been busy lately, but said it doesn't indicate that the number of fires is on the increase. In February 2008, firefighters worked 115 fires that caused $1.6 million in damage. Last month, they worked 88 fires that caused $1.2 million in damage.
"I just think it's a lot more prevalent where we've had some devastating fires to our apartments," Clay said. "We've had some multiple alarms and similar apartment fires."