Neighbors can’t save family of four from Ohio house fire

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(CNN) — Suburban Cleveland parents and their two young daughters died in a house fire Monday night, even though their neighbors ran into the home to try to rescue them, authorities said.

Around 8:30 p.m., neighbor Jim Russo heard an explosion and rushed outside. Other neighbors did, too.

Without pausing, Russo and others ran inside the burning home, CNN affiliate WEWS reported. He said he made it to the kitchen. “There was debris and a lot of insulation all over the ground, a lot of smoke,” he told WEWS. “And we started screaming to ask if anybody was in there, and nobody responded. We couldn’t get upstairs because that was engulfed in flames.”

The names of the victims have not been released, but Frank Risko, fire chief for Northfield Center Township, said the girls were 8 and 12 years old.

The fire was one of the worst he has seen in his 25-year career, he said.

The Northfield Center Fire Department was told of the fire at 8:43 p.m., Risko said. When firefighters arrived “the house was completely engulfed.”

Once the fire was extinguished, only a fraction of the second floor was intact, he said. Late into their long, grisly night, after battling the fire for several hours, firefighters discovered the body of one of the children near her mother’s body, the chief said. The father’s body was found on the first floor near the rear of the home, he said.

The Ohio state fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause of the blaze, Risko said. The local gas company is examining gas lines at the scene to make sure they are secure.

Risko said his department doesn’t often deal with fatal fires. “It’s difficult,” he said, his voice breaking.