A south Phoenix woman and three children are recovering after narrowly escaping a house fire Friday afternoon.
Firefighters were called to the home near 22nd Street and Southern Avenue shortly after 3 p.m. for a reported kitchen fire with multiple children still inside the home.
Fire department officials said that a woman in her 60s made her way out of the house and collapsed on the front lawn due to inhaling so much smoke. She also had minor burns and was rushed to the hospital.
According to a spokesman from the Phoenix Fire Department, the woman is currently on a ventilator.
The woman’s son-in-law, Danny Brandon, said that she was watching her three grandchildren and when the flames grew out of control she tried to save them, but the asthmatic woman was forced out by the smoke.
The fire destroyed the inside of the house where the kitchen is and the entryway to the rest of the home, according to Brandon.
"You can't live in there, too much smoke damage and fire damage,” Brandon said.
Firefighters were not able to find the children until they did a second search, once the flames were out. They found a 3-year-old boy and 4-year-old girl hiding in the closet in a back bedroom under a suitcase and piles of clothes, according to the fire department.
Officials said that a two-year-old girl, who walked out of the house on her own, suffered second-degree burns on her hands.
The fire was out but the children were still missing when firefighters Joe Duffy and Josh Lorenzen went in to find them, which proved more difficult than anticipated because they described the inside as a hoarder house.
“[The call was] a child trapped inside the building. So, obviously, your heart starts racing a little faster,” firefighter Joe Duffy said. "We’re not going to leave this house unless we find the child or we get confirmation that the child is found safely. So, we're just searching every little nook and crevice."
"One of the chiefs grabbed me and said, 'Hey, make sure you look everywhere,’" Lorenzen said.
Firefighters said hiding in a closet during a fire is not a good thing, but in this case the clothes did help to filter the smoke.
All three children were transported to the hospital for observation, but family says that while they were at the hospital the children were taken into custody by the Department of Child Safety.
The children’s mother tells ABC15 that the woman taken to the hospital is the caretaker for the children, and because she would not have been able to take care of the children while in the hospital, they were taken by DCS.
Brandon said that his mother-in-law is expected to recover and they can only be grateful that the fire didn’t spread any further.
"We're going to be alright. Thank God everybody's going to be OK,” Brandon said.
Phoenix Fire officials said this is a reminder to all parents to talk to your children about safe escape routes.