SYRACUSE, N.Y. – A predawn fire quickly engulfed a two-story house Friday, and two men, a 7-year-old girl and three boys, ages 10 to 13, were found dead inside, officials said.
A 32-year-old woman escaped the fire and was taken to a hospital, fire Lt. Joe Galloway said. A 33-year-old man who lived in the single-family home was away when the fire broke out shortly before 4 a.m.
The two men who died were 33 and 34 years old, Galloway said. Officials initially said all six fire victims were in the same family, but Galloway later said investigators were still working to confirm identities and relationships.
"We're very early in this investigation. We have a lot of work to do," Galloway said.
The blaze was reported around 3:50 a.m. at a home on the city's north side. When firefighters arrived just minutes after receiving a 911 call, the front of the house was engulfed in flames, officials said.
Fire Chief Paul Linnertz said firefighters were attempting to enter the front of the home when the porch roof collapsed, forcing them to retreat.
"So they had to back out and find another way into the house," Linnertz said.
Firefighters used ladders to enter the second floor, where they found four bodies. Two others were found downstairs.
The flames were put out about 30 minutes later.
Michael Henesey, spokesman for the Syracuse City School District, said the victims include "four of our students." WSTM-TV said the school district's crisis response team was being made available to students and staff at the schools the children attended.
Sebira Pehlic told The Syracuse Post-Standard that she "heard a boom" about an hour after returning home from work at 3 a.m. She looked out a window and saw smoke and flames coming from a house four doors away.
Pehlic says the fire spread quickly. A photo she took shows a wall of flames shooting from the front of the house.