Fire ripped through a row house in central Pennsylvania on Monday night, killing five people, including four young children, and spreading to other homes, authorities said.
Flames already had engulfed two white brick houses in uptown Harrisburg by the time fire crews arrived minutes after the alarm, which sounded between 7 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Fire Chief Robert Talloni said.
"There was a plume you could see for miles," he said.
Battalion Chief Daniel Hartman told The Patriot-News that when crews arrived, "People were yelling, `The kids were inside!'"
A 48-year-old woman and four children ranging in age from 2 to 4 were killed, said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for the mayor's office.
Firefighters "were on scene within three (minutes) but unable to pull anybody out alive," Ardo said.
The names of the victims were not immediately available.
Fire officials said the home had smoke detectors, but they were not functioning. They said at least four homes appeared to be uninhabitable.
State police and city and county investigators were at the scene, along with investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives, to try to figure out the cause of the blaze.