The bodies of a young boy and girl were found burned beyond recognition in a sport utility vehicle, and police suspect their father set the blaze, officials said.

The 54-year-old father was found near the SUV with severe burns on his face, hands and legs, authorities said. He was taken to a hospital, where he was listed in critical condition.

Firefighters discovered the children — ages 10 and 11 — after extinguishing the vehicle fire in a downtown alley, said Brian Humphrey, a fire department spokesman.

"We believe the person responsible for this crime is the children's father," police Sgt. Lee Sands said.

"We don't know if he was trying to do harm to himself, or just the children and accidentally got burned," Sands said.

Positive identification of the young victims has been difficult because the bodies were burned beyond recognition, said Lt. Cheryl MacWillie of the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office.