DECATUR Ala. (WHNT) - Fire investigators say the blaze that killed two pre-school age children Thursday morning began in the children's bedroom but the exact cause has yet to be determined.
"It doesn't appear suspicious, anything that we have seen, at this time," said Battalion Chief Fire Marshall Jason Jones during a 5 p.m. press conference.
Dexter Miland Jr., 2, and Marlena Miland, 4, died in the fire that broke out at the West Ridge Apartments on 5th Avenue on Thursday morning. Neighbors reported the fire around 7:30 a.m. Firefighters say flames were shooting from several windows and advancing toward the roof when they arrived.
Decatur Police Lt. John Crouch says an 8-year-old child in the apartment first noticed the smoke and went to wake up his parents. "They tried to get into the bedroom where the two young children were but by that time they said the smoke and flames were too much for them to make entry," Lt. Crouch said. Police say Dexter Miland also tried to get into the bedroom through a window but was once again turned back by the heat and smoke.
A neighbor told WHNT News 19 late Thursday afternoon that the sound of people yelling outside her apartment alerted her about the fire. She says she saw heavy smoke pouring out of the building and people were making their way outside. She says the "entire building seemed to have exploded into flames."
Several relatives and neighbors told WHNT News 19 they could hear the oldest of the two children, Marlena, screaming for help while her parents frantically tried to reach the children.
The apartment complex is just across from Brookhaven Middle School and Decatur's Aquadome Recreational Complex. It's a series of four-unit, two-story apartment buildings. The fire was confined to the one building.
A state fire marshal investigator joined Decatur Fire & Rescue arson investigators who spent the day Thursday sifting through the rubble. The burned unit has been roped off and a Decatur Police officer has been stationed outside of the building for the night. Investigators are expected to return to the scene Friday morning to continue their search for clues to the cause of the fire.
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