The bodies of two girls who were unaccounted for during a house fire in Putnam early Tuesday morning have been identified.
Officials said on Tuesday morning that the girls were feared dead when fire spread through a multifamily Victorian-style house on Prospect Street. Their bodies were found inside the house on the top floor a few hours later.
Alexis Auger, 3, and 9-month-old Ava Auger died of smoke inhalation, according to the medical examiner. The deaths have been ruled accidental.
The fire started just before 1 a.m., as five families were asleep inside.
"I went from sleeping to jumping into the worst thing I've ever seen in my life," said Michael Mungarro, who lived in a first floor apartment and tried to save the children.
"They were the most fantastic little kids I've ever seen," said Mungarro.
Even though the cause remains undetermined, it's believed to be accidental, according to Putnam Fire Marshal Norm Perron. It started in the victims' third floor bedroom, he said.
Four people were taken to area hospitals to be treated for smoke inhalation, including the pregnant mother of the children who were killed.
“She’s a wonderful mother, she loved her children more than anything in the world,” Brandy Perez, friend of the family said. “They just need all the support they can get.”
Perez said the young girls were living on the top floor of the home.
“It’s just unbelievable,” said Perez. “The top floor…it’s just tough. They were smart, her older daughter was very smart, she was a beautiful girl. It’s very tough.”
When firefighters arrived, flames were shooting through the roof of the three-story building.
Officials said the assistant chief made his best effort to get to the third floor where the children were, but firefighters could proceed no further because of the heavy smoke.
"We did have a problem throughout the night. We had to tally our losses and prevent our people from getting too far into the building, so we maintained them at a certain level and that caused the building to burn a little bit," Perron said.
The state fire marshal was called to the scene to investigate. Investigators will also try and determine if there were any code violations in the home, police said.
WINY Radio, based in Putnam, has worked with Putnam Bank to set up a fund to assist the families affected by the fire.
You can drop off donations for the Prospect Street Fire Fund at any office of Putnam Bank or at WINY, 45 Pomfret Street in Putnam.
Make checks payable to Prospect Street Fire Fund, c/o Putnam Bank.