Three children, the oldest age 6, were killed by a fireball that jumped from a fireplace as their cousin tried to stoke embers with gas from a can, authorities confirmed Thursday.
Abbey Van Buskirk, 6, and her brothers Andrew, 4, and Austin, 2, were found dead Wednesday night inside the gutted remains of their grandparents' home in Spring Valley, a modest suburb about 15 miles east of downtown San Diego, according to the San Diego County medical examiner's office.
Their 18-year-old cousin suffered serious burns on his hand and was taken to UC San Diego Medical Center for treatment.
Sheriff's investigators did not release his name.
A friend who was at the house when the fire broke out told a television crew that about half a dozen people were watching a movie when their log fire started to go out.
The children's cousin tried to re-start it by pouring gas on it, and flames leaped out of the fireplace and quickly engulfed the living room, said the friend, Cameron Bartlett.
"The house was gone in about five minutes," Bartlett told KGTV Channel 10.
The adults in the one-story house, including the children's grandparents, escaped, but security bars on the windows prevented them from getting back inside to rescue the children, Bartlett said.
The fire is under investigation by the San Diego County Sheriff's Department bomb-arson unit.