ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Four children under the age of 5 were discovered hiding during a fire in the Benton Park West neighborhood.
One of the children is listed in critical condition. St. Louis Fire Department spokesman Garon Mosby said the three other children were in stable condition.
Someone called firefighters to tell them that smoke was coming from an apartment around 12:40 p.m. in the 1300 block of Ohio. Firefighters were able to respond quickly and were at the scene just after 1 p.m. Firefighters had the blaze under control at around 1:20 p.m.
An adult who also stays at the home also came to the scene. She told firefighters there were four children inside the apartment.
The fire was in the front portion of the apartment. The children were hiding in the back of the residence. The distance between the fire and the playroom where the children were hiding helped them survive the fire.
Firefighters found two of the kids hiding in a closet, one in a play tent, and another in a doorway. Mosby said children will often hide during a fire.
“We know that children do that in fires or traumatic situations,” he said. “Our firefighters went in and instead of just glancing at the room, actually performed a detailed search which is what we are trained to do and located the four children and rescued them and extinguished the fire.”
Two of the kids were identified as 18-month-old twins.
Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said the children are alive because of the heroic work of firefighters.
“The children are alive because of the job the first companies on the scene did; the St. Louis Fire Department and then the job that the Emergency Medical Service did, the EMS service did, getting them to the hospital,” said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.
"It looks like the children might have left the front room, ran to the bedroom, pushed the door shut, partially. It was still open a little bit, which probably saved their lives and kept them alive long enough for us to get here," Jenkerson said.
Fire officials said three of the children were in cardiac arrest when they were pulled from the apartment building but were eventually breathing on their own.
Three of the children were expected to be hospitalized overnight. Officials said had first responders not rushed into the smoke-filled apartment building, the outcome would have been worse.
“Their training, their efforts, the risk they took to get into this building made a big, big difference,” Jenkerson said.
Neighbor Mary McNary saw smoke coming from the apartment window and called 911. She saw firefighters carry the children outside and perform CPR on them.
"...It was a horrible sight to see because I didn't know whether the children were going to make it or not," she said.
Jenkerson said the cause of the fire has not been determined but it appeared to have started near a mattress and a chair.
Meanwhile, other nearby residents said the fire was prompting them to have conversations with their children about what they should do in the event of a fire. The Missouri Department of Public Safety offers ways families can create their own plans.