3 children, woman killed in early morning house fire in Glendale

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(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS5) (Source: 3TV/CBS5)
(Source: 3TV/CBS 5) (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

Four people, three of them children, were found dead inside a home that caught fire early Wednesday morning and now investigators are trying to figure out how it started.

Sgt. Scott Waite of the Glendale Police Department said the victims are a 41-year-old woman and three children younger than 18.

The woman and two of the children, 11-year-old boys, were found first. Firefighters located the third, a teenage girl, while going through the rubble.

[SLIDESHOW: From the scene]

Neighbors had told firefighters that more people might have lived in the home in the neighborhood of 51st and Peoria Avenues, Sgt. Scott Waite of the Glendale Police Department said. That means the first priority for firefighters was to make sure everyone is accounted for.

Emergency crews were called out at about 1:20 a.m.

"Neighbors reported hearing, you know a pop, an explosion, something that alerted them that they came out and saw the house engulfed in flames," Waite explained. "You can see it, the entire roof is completely collapsed in."

One of the victims was found closer to the front of the home, Waite said. The two boys were near the back, which, based on the amount of damage, is where firefighters believe the fire started. Waite did not say where firefighters found the girl.

"It's unknown if they were trying to get out and going to different exits," Waite said. "It's hard to even really speculate on why the bodies are where they are."

Waite described the fire as "intense."

"We know from talking to the initial crews, they said said it was hot, one of the hotter fires that they've been on," he said. "You can only imagine for the people inside how quickly that heat, the smoke can do damage to your system."

"It's haunting," said a neighbor who told us she saw green smoke from the fire. "It's heartbreaking as a mother to know what struggle must have ensued. [I have] just a deep pit in my stomach of sickness and sadness."

Police have not released the names of the victims yet, but Vance Setka, the principal of Ironwood High School, confirmed that the girl, Tabitha Gilsinger, was a student there and said the school is offering grief counselors for students and faculty.

Teachers described Tabitha as a "smart, gifted student who was exceptional at art." 

It is not clear if the home was equipped with working smoke detectors.

"Most fire deaths are not caused by burns, but by smoke inhalation," according to the National Fire Prevention Association. "Often smoke incapacitates so quickly that people are overcome and can't make it to an otherwise accessible exit."

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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