The fire began Wednesday morning in the kitchen and melted plastic creating a toxic cloud and smoky blaze. D.C. Fire Engine 15 and Rescue Squad 3 responded to the alarm from the Pennell House condos at 1920 Naylor Road in Southeast Washington.
What the firefighters didn't know at the time was that there were three children in a bedroom across the hall from the kitchen where the fire broke out. They had been left alone by their father, who went to work after asking a neighbor down the hall to check on them at 5:40 a.m.
When the neighbor went to the apartment at 6 a.m., she saw smoke coming from under the door and called for help.
A surveillance camera in the hallway of the building captured video of firefighters inside, the neighbor frantically looking for the apartment key on a ring filled with keys. She opened the door and firefighters rushed inside just in time to rescue the three little girls who were suffering from serious smoke inhalation. They were rushed to the waiting ambulance and given CPR. The girls were 5 months, 18 months and 5 years old. One was unconscious. They were taken to Children's Hospital, where they are listed in critical but stable condition and are expected to make it.
At the firehouse of Engine 15 and Rescue Squad 3 , D.C. Chief Larry Shultz gathered all those involved in the rescue to congratulate them, saying they had turned a possible tragedy into a great success, and they should savor it because few get to experience such a great team victory in their entire career.