House Fires Kill 4 in Connecticut, 5 in Philly

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) -- Fire broke out in a three-family home Monday, killing a mother and three children and critically injuring the father.

The blaze started shortly before dawn in the frame building on the city's west side, and the house was fully engulfed in flames by the time firefighters arrived, Assistant Fire Chief Fred Haschak said.

The flames took two hours to control and gutted the second and third floors, fire officials said. The cause was not immediately determined.

The woman and a 15-year-old boy were pronounced dead at the scene. A 12-year-old girl was pronounced dead at the Bridgeport hospital, and a 3-year-old died after being flown to a hospital in Hartford, officials said.

Their father was in critical condition in the Bridgeport hospital's burn unit, hospital spokesman John Cappiello said. The victims' names were not immediately released.

The fire left nine people homeless, said Caryn Kaufman, a spokeswoman for Mayor John Fabrizi.

Jackie Gonzalez, who lived on the third floor of the house, said she woke up and saw smoke pouring into her window. She grabbed her two children and a niece and made her way through the smoke.

''I couldn't see nothing. I threw myself to the stairs,'' she said.

Fire Chief Bruce Porzelt praised Gonzalez's swift action. ''She was smart enough under all that pressure, that's like combat. She saved lives.''

The Bridgeport deaths came one day after a blaze in Philadelphia killed five children, three of them siblings and the others their young cousins.

The Sunday morning fire, in a two-story stucco rowhouse in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood, took just nine minutes to extinguish, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.

Attempts to rescue the children were hampered by security bars on some of the house's windows, he said.

''There were so many things that came together to spell disaster,'' Ayers said.

Two adults, believed to be the parents of the three siblings, escaped by jumping from a second-floor window. Both were seriously injured.

It was not known whether the home had smoke detectors. Authorities would not say if there were signs of foul play, but said they would be looking for possible building code violations.

Neighbors said the boy and four girls ranged in age from 6 months to 6 years old.

Associated Press writer Patrick Walters in Philadelphia contributed to this report.