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2 Brothers Killed, 20 Displaced by Siler City Apartment Fire

Posted November 5, 2007
Updated November 6, 2007

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— Two brothers, ages 2 and 3, were killed Monday when a fire raced through their Siler City apartment, authorities said.

Siler City Fire Chief Mitch Vann said a preliminary investigation had not determined the cause of the fire, but he knew it started in the downstairs living room of the family's apartment around 11:15 a.m. at the Brookwood Apartments, 900 W. Dolphin St.

One unit was destroyed, and three others heavily damaged, displacing about 20 people.

Firefighters arrived at the apartment building three to four minutes after being called, Vann said, but the first two floors of the building were already in flames. Crews were able to extinguish the fire in less than an hour.

The boys' mother stood outside the building while it burned, screaming hysterically, according to witness Raymondo Sandria. She was doing laundry when the fire broke out, Vann said.

"She was screaming, because the children were inside and she was outside," Sandria said through an interpreter.

The toddlers had been trapped in a second-floor bedroom, Vann said, and firefighters were able to pull them from the building and begin resuscitation efforts. Authorities speculated that the boys might have run upstairs to their bedroom because they were afraid of the flames.

"Once we made entry into the upstairs window, both children were found almost immediately," he said.

The children were taken to Chatham Hospital, where they were pronounced dead. Authorities declined to release their names on Monday night.

Their mother was also taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injuries. The father was at work as a landscaper when the fire occurred, Vann said.

Crisis counselors meet with first responders after a long and difficult day.

"It hits home very well. I have a 2-year-old daughter myself," Vann said.

Arson investigators and fire officials remained on the scene Monday night, but it could be several weeks before the cause is known, Vann said. A language barrier with the Spanish-speaking victims was contributing to the delay in the investigation, although interpreters were assisting.

Vann said there was no evidence that the fire was suspicious in nature, but investigators were not ruling anything out early on.

The Red Cross found food, shelter and clothing for the families displaced by the fire.