2 Sisters Dead, 1 Critical In Long Beach Blaze

Flames swept through a converted garage, killing two young sisters and critically injuring a third early Friday in a blaze firefighters say may have been caused by a space heater.

The fire on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard was reported shortly after 2 a.m. Firefighters found three girls, ages 6, 7 and 10, unconscious on the floor, fire Capt. Mike DuRee said.

The 6-year-old and 10-year-old died at St. Mary's Medical Center. The 7-year-old was in critical condition at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center.

"As far as her chance of survival, she's in a really good place," DuRee said.

About 20 firefighters responded to the alarm and the fire was extinguished in about five minutes, DuRee said.

The parents weren't home at the time.

A 17-year-old sister who was baby-sitting the youngsters alerted neighbors about the blaze.

The garage had a separate address but it was unclear whether the
building had been legally converted, DuRee said.

The blaze started in an area where a small space heater had been running all night, DuRee said.

It was plugged into a power strip that had other plugs attached.

However, fire investigators were not immediately sure whether the strip was overloaded or the fire was sparked by an electrical short, DuRee said.

There were no smoke detectors or sprinklers in the garage, he said.

Neighbors said the victims were all sisters.

Jose Perez, who lives in the front home, said he and his family moved in three or four months ago. He said the family in back was related to his wife and was only spending the night in a sleepover.

However, neighbors said they had seen the girls frequently skating in the neighborhood.

"They used to play around here," neighbor Jesus Gil said.


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