Firefighters pulled 3-year-old Zacheria Singletary from the smoke-filled residence in the Pinecrest Apartments on Hardee Street after she was found inside one of the bedrooms. Her condition is now improving at Duke Hospital.
At first, crews thought the girl's parents had been inside, too. But now fire investigator Harold Boyd said he believes the children were home alone.
Authorities said power in the apartment had been cut off, and a lit candle started the fire. Boyd said the oldest child, an 8-year-old boy, helped the others escape.
However, Boyd said he's had a tough time getting answers about exactly who was where. The apartment belonged to Ebony Lambert. Zacheria's family had been staying with her.
When asked by WRAL if the children were at home alone when the fire started, Lambert said, "I don't know. You told me earlier they were. I don't know."
The supervisor of Child Protective Services for Durham County, Gail Angle, said she couldn't talk about the specifics of the case. However, she said that in general terms, neglect could take on many different forms.
"If they have no power and, say, another piece of neglect -- they're home alone -- those two things together, (the agency is) going to take it," she said.
No one has said whether the three uninjured children are still in their parents' care. The family has not responded to WRAL's requests for an interview.