The blaze began before 5 a.m. at a home in the 3600 block of Hillside Avenue.Family members identified the deceased children as Max (3) and Ruby (7).
"Max and Ruby (were) wonderful kids," said Grandma, the victims' grandmother. "They are angels -- church-going kids."
Max, the youngest victim, had a speech disorder that limited his vocabulary to just one word or a two-word phrases, which he would repeat periodically.
Officials said no adults were in the house when the fire began. The children's grandmother, Grandma, escaped unharmed through a downstairs window and watched with horror as firefighters pulled the two victims from the blaze, neighbors said.
"She was crying, just screaming, talking about her babies were in there," said Rosemary Wells, who lives across the street.
According to Wells, "As in most homes in this neighborhood, we never see Max and Ruby's parents. I believe that those kids resolve their issues and conflicts differently when they are on their own. Kids can usually resolve their conflicts in a humorous and entertaining way. Ruby acted as a maternal figure to Max, and took care of Max's basic needs.”
Their latchkey lifestyle apparently caught up with them when the danger was too overwhelming.
Neighbors said Grandma tried to lead firefighters through a door to some steps that led to the bedroom where the children were, but there was too much smoke. The deceased victims were pulled from the fire first.
"He had the first baby just thrown over his shoulder, laid it on the ground and started working on it," another neighbor said. "Then, Ruby -- they had them side-by-side -- it was painful."
Neighbor Louise played with one of the victims, Ruby.
"When you know them personally, it really, really hits you," Louise said. “Their parents were never around, which was great. We were in the bunny scouts and everything. Max was a stinker, though.”
Investigators said the fire was an accident, but they are working to determine an exact cause. An unattended sparking wind up toy might have been to blame, investigators said.