Relatives and friends of twin boys killed in a fire in North Braddock on Friday said the boys' mother told them she left the children unattended for a few minutes and returned to learn the house was engulfed in flames.
"She was very hysterical," said Ronald Reed, 42, of the East End, who said he has a child with the boys' mother, Dalawna Berran-Lett.
Mr. Reed said Ms. Berran-Lett called him Friday afternoon and said she left her Rebecca Street home "for a few minutes" to find her teenage daughter.
Allegheny County officials said they were still trying to sort through stories from first-responders and others Friday night and could not yet confirm whether the children's mother had in fact left them alone. They did not identify the boys Friday night, but relatives identified them as Ky'heir and Dy'heir Arthur.
Alvin Henderson, chief of county emergency services, said a contractor working in the area spotted smoke about 3:30 p.m. and knocked on the door. No one answered, and he called 911. Firefighters went into the house but later chose to focus on fighting it from the outside because the house was so consumed by flames, Chief Henderson said.
A Braddock firefighter, whom officials did not name, was taken to a hospital and evaluated for minor injuries when part of the second floor gave way. He fell through to his waist, and firefighters lifted him up, Chief Henderson said.
First-responders found one of the boys on the gutted first floor and the other on the second floor. The chief said investigators were "just starting to dig into the scene" and were not yet sure how the blaze began, but, based on the concentration of the burn marks, they thought that it might have originated on the first floor.
The fatal fire was "obviously very rough on the family and also for us," he said.
Teary-eyed family members, including the teenager the mother had been looking for, paced on a connecting street while firefighters and county homicide detectives looked through the damage.
Mr. Reed and the boys' cousin and godfather, Darran Miller, described them as smart and lovable. Mr. Reed thought about how he would tell the rest of the family, and particularly one of the boys' sisters: "I have to tell [her] ... that the brothers she adored are dead."
Liz Navratil: email@example.com, 412-263-1438 or on Twitter @LizNavratil.