A 31-year-old South Miami-Dade father suffered severe burns Sunday trying to rescue his son and daughter from the house fire the children apparently set playing with a lighter as their parents slept, Miami-Dade fire officials said.
Neighbors said they witnessed the frantic efforts of the father and a construction worker to get the children out after the fire broke out around 9:30 a.m.
The father first ran out, but returned to the burning house to try to get his 4-year-old daughter and 3-year-old-son, witnesses told fire officials.
''I saw the father come out of the house -- he was burned, his skin was falling off of him,'' said Dana Terry, who lives across the street from the family and was the first to call 911. ''He went in twice.''
DAD SEVERELY BURNED
The father suffered severe burns to his face, arms, and chest.
Ten minutes after the fire began, arriving firefighters finally rescued the children from a bathroom where they had taken refuge. Both were unconscious and suffering from smoke inhalation, said Louie Fernandez, a spokesman with Miami-Dade Fire Rescue.
The girl and her father were flown to Jackson Memorial Hospital's burn unit.
To treat the badly-burned father, paramedics ''poured saline all over him,'' Terry said. The girl was given CPR on the front lawn.
The boy and his 28-year-old mother, who suffered smoke inhalation, were taken to Baptist Hospital, Fernandez said. All family members were in serious condition Sunday night. Their names have not been released.
IN A STATE OF PANIC
Terry said she awoke to a woman's panicked yelling. She went outside, still in her pajamas, and saw smoke spilling from a bedroom window of the house on 11800 block of Southwest 170th Terrace. ''She was hollering that her kids were still inside,'' Terry said of the children's mother.
Miguel Ramos, a construction worker, said he smelled smoke, grabbed the fire extinguisher he always carries in his truck, bashed out the bedroom window and began spraying the extinguisher until it was empty. ''I thank God the children survived,'' Ramos said.
Fernandez said firefighters found a charred smoke alarm in the debris which apparently was not in working order.
Neighbors said the family had been living there less than a month.
Fire officials said a working fire alarm could have prevented the fire. They urged everyone to check the battery on their alarms at least twice a year.