Baltimore house fire: 6 children presumed dead

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**Embargo: Baltimore, MD** Six children are missing and presumed dead after a fire consumed a home in Baltimore early Thursday, authorities said.

(CNN) — A fire early Thursday morning ravaged a Baltimore home and a family, injuring a mother and three children and leaving six other children missing and presumed dead, fire officials say.

The missing are between 9 months and 11 years of age.

One body had been recovered early Thursday afternoon, but it was burned so badly police could not identify the gender or age.

The blaze was so intense it melted a nearby car.

“This really hurts deeply,” Mayor Catherine Pugh said. “A tragedy like this touches everyone in our city. It’s hard to say anything other than to pray and to ask Baltimore to pray for the family.”

The children’s mother and two boys, ages 4 and 5, were hospitalized and remained in critical condition. An 8-year-old girl was also hospitalized and could be released shortly. She was credited with helping her mother and two brothers escape the large house in northeast Baltimore.

The father was at work and told authorities the home had a smoke detector and he had recently changed the battery, officials said.

Firefighters arrived at the blaze about 12:30 a.m., according to Baltimore Fire Department spokesman Chief Roman Clark.

The third floor of the home collapsed onto the second floor, hindering attempts by firefighters to get into the house for search and rescue, Clark said.

The office of US Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D, Maryland) identified the woman as a staff member who has worked for him almost 11 years as a special assistant in his Catonsville office.

“I am asking that our entire community pray for my staff member, Katie Malone, and her young family,” Cummings said in a statement, “I am grateful to the Baltimore City Fire Department and all those who responded quickly to the devastating fire. My staff is a family and this unimaginable tragedy is shocking and heartbreaking to us all. I again ask for your prayers.”

The missing children are two boys, 9 months and 2 years; and four girls: 3-year-old twins, a 10-year-old and an 11-year-old.

The cause of the fire is unknown and under investigation.