Two children died Friday afternoon when a fire broke out at a home in Greenfield, prompting their baby sitter to jump out a third-story window as flames shot out of the building.
Irihanna Hayward, 3, died at the scene of the blaze at 951 Mirror St., and one of her relatives, Kamari Thomas, 4, was pronounced dead when he arrived at UPMC Mercy moments after the blaze began.
"It happened so fast," said neighbor Abbey Brown.
Several neighbors said they heard a popping noise -- which investigators suspect was a window bursting -- and looked outside to see a woman screaming, "My babies, my babies, my babies."
Bud Roth, who lives several houses down from the where the blaze began, was talking with Frank Iozzo of Tudi Mechanical Systems, who had been working on his furnace, when Mr. Roth said he saw "a bunch of smoke."
Mr. Iozzo grabbed a fire extinguisher and ran down the street but said the blaze "was beyond a fire extinguisher" when he arrived. Flames burst out of the windows. Debris was falling off parts of the house, and he thought he saw some wires tumbling.
Mr. Iozzo said he ran to the back of the house where he saw a woman -- whom investigators identified as 38-year-old Candice Pearson -- crumpled on the sidewalk, having apparently jumped three stories out of a back window and crashed onto a concrete surface.
"I was afraid to touch her," Mr. Iozzo said.
Neighbors called 911. The first call came in at 3:21 p.m. Firefighters were dispatched at 3:23 p.m. and arrived three minutes later, fire Chief Darryl Jones said.
At some point during the chaos, a woman and a boy began walking toward the house. The woman "was running up and down the street and screaming, throwing herself on the ground -- utter terror," Ms. Brown said.
Firefighters ran into the building, ran up the steps and spotted Irihanna in one rear bedroom and Kamari in another.
"My guys found them, brought them down the steps and passed them off to EMS," Chief Jones said. "EMS did what they do and transported one, and the other one was not viable."
A police officer lifted Ms. Pearson off the concrete behind the house and took her to the front of the home. Medics took her to UPMC Mercy with head and neck injuries. Police said she was in critical condition Friday night.
Neighbors watched from the sidewalk across the street while firefighters doused the flames. City public safety director Michael Huss and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl spoke with investigators while they combed through the charred remains of the 80-year-old row house.
Investigators slowly determined that the blaze began in a living room on the front end of the first story of the house. They had "absolutely no clue" what started the fire, Mr. Huss said.
The Red Cross was assisting two families whose homes were damaged.
Landlord John Guo said investigators provided him little information about the fire. He said he didn't know much about the tenants except that a woman had lived in the home for three or four years and he thought several children lived there with her. Neighbors said they often saw people passing through the house but weren't entirely sure who lived there or what their names were.
Family members met at UPMC Mercy Friday night. Investigators said they planned to give the family some time to grieve before attempting to piece together how the fire victims knew each other.
In the meantime, Chief Jones said, "The cause of the fire is under investigation."
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil. First Published October 13, 2012 4:00 AM