Father Dies Trying to Save His 3 Children From California Apartment Fire After Evacuating Wife and 2 Kids

A father of five died while trying to save three of his children from a fire that consumed their apartment in Hemet, around 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles, on Friday.

The unidentified 41-year-old dad managed to evacuate his wife, their infant and 11-year-old daughter from the burning complex before he went back inside to retrieve his other children, an 8-year-old son and two daughters aged 4 and 12.

He did not re-emerge from the building and firefighters later found him deceased. The two girls and the boy were retrieved from the building and taken to a hospital. The girls later died at the hospital, The Press-Enterprise reported.

Their 8-year-old son, who was airlifted to the UCI Medical Center in Orange, was reported to be in grave condition, Hemet police spokesman Lt. Jeff Davis said in a statement. It is unclear whether the mother, infant and surviving daughter were injured in the fire.

The family of seven were asleep when the fire broke out in their second floor apartment at around 1 a.m. (local time). "She [the mother] was able to wake her husband, who assisted her in evacuating their infant and 11-year old child," Davis said. "The husband went back into the apartment to rescue their remaining children."

The blaze ravaged some adjoining units of the 25-unit apartment complex, leaving 45 residents displaced, according to Davis.

Several attempts were made to save the family but heavy fire and overhead power lines prevented firefighters from being able to extend ladders, Hemet fire chief Scott Brown stated in a press conference, CNN reports.

"The fire burned very rapidly, consumed everything in that apartment very quickly, and unfortunately it led to ... death," Brown said, The Press-Enterprise reports.

"It was quite an effort to keep the fire from spreading and taking out the whole building," said Brown.

He also advised against anyone returning to a building that is on fire, while acknowledging the father in the latest incident had made a desperate attempt to save his children.

"Once you get out, you stay out," he said.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and a criminal cause is not suspected, according to Hemet police Lt. Nate Miller.

Officials are looking into various electrical or mechanical-related causes, including the possible malfunctioning of lights on a Christmas tree, according to Brown.

Around 25 people were reported to have found shelter at a center set up by the American Red Cross at Acadia Middle School, according to The Press-Enterprise, while other locals were able to make other arrangements for places to stay.