ST. LOUIS -- Four children under the age of 4 believed to have been left alone without adult supervision were pulled from a burning home by St. Louis firefighters on Thursday, and fire officials said they're lucky to be alive.
Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said three of the children were in cardiac arrest after firefighters whisked them from an apartment inside the home. A St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer captured an image of a firefighter working to revive a small girl.
One child was initially listed in critical condition, but by mid-afternoon, Jenkerson said all four were stable and breathing on their own. Three were hospitalized for treatment of smoke inhalation. The fire chief added that the children were alive "by the grace of God."
"This type of incident hits you real hard," he said
Someone passing by the apartment in the city's Lafayette Square neighborhood just before 1 p.m. saw smoke and called for help. The fire was in the front of the brick building.
Fire Department spokesman Garon Mosby said firefighters entered the home while it was burning and found the children in a playroom — one hiding in a closet, two in a play tent and one near a door.
"Hats off to the firefighters," Mosby said. "You walk into a room and at first glimpse there's nobody there. You've got to dig deeper. And we know that children hide (during fires). Bathtubs, closets, under beds, in this case, in a tent."
Officials said it appeared that the children were left home alone. Mosby said the mother of the children came to the scene as firefighters were there.
It wasn't immediately clear if the mother or any other adult could face charges. A police spokeswoman said the investigation was ongoing.