A 2-year-old boy died and his twin brother was in critical condition after they set fire to their parents' South-Central Los Angeles home while playing with matches Wednesday, officials said.
Antoinne and Dewan Ware were trapped when a lighted match ignited the bedding and curtains of their bedroom. According to neighbors, their 25-year-old father tried to save his sons but inhaled smoke and fainted in the backyard after a futile rescue attempt.
Arson Inspector Tim Crass pointed out that a smoke detector in the children's room failed to go off because it had no batteries.
The county coroner identified the twin who died as Dewan.
Truck driver Stevie Ware, wife Deanna, and the couple's other sons, Stevie Jr., 4, and Brandon, 1, were also in the house in the 700 block of East 85th Street when the fire broke out just before noon, but they were not caught in the flames.
"I got there and I saw Stevie passed out and Deanna told me, 'You gotta save the kids,' " said Kenneth Shepard, a friend who had come to visit the Wares. "I tried to get in. I tried--but the heat was too much."
When units from Los Angeles Fire Department Stations 57 and 64 arrived, the father was unconscious and Shepard was unsuccessfully trying to put out the fire with a garden hose, Capt. Lorrell Cooper said.
After the rescue operation, two firefighters were counseled for emotional stress touched off by the sight of the victims.
'Tough on Young Officers'
"Anything can trigger it. The look in the kid's face. The type of pants the kid's wearing can be same as the ones your own kid wears. . . . It's really tough on the young officers," Cooper said. "You never really overcome it, but it doesn't affect the performance of our duty."
Stevie Ware and the surviving twin were taken to Martin Luther King Jr.-Drew Medical Center. The father was reported in stable condition.
The boy was transferred to the burn unit at County-USC Medical Center, where he was being treated for critical burns and smoke inhalation, authorities said.
While arson unit inspectors walked through the ashes inside the home, James Ware, 62, looked at the remnants of his property in disbelief. "Just three hours ago I called to see if I had any messages," the children's grandfather said.
The blaze caused an estimated $18,000 damage to the structure and contents, officials said.
South-Central Los Angeles is the busiest area in the city for firefighters. Fire Station 64 receives an average of seven calls a day, four of which require medical treatment, Cooper said.