A Temple Hills couple and their two young children were found dead early yesterday in a shared first-floor bedroom from a fire that apparently smoldered as they slept, Prince George's County fire officials said.
The blaze was discovered at 1:12 a.m. when Daniel W. Moynihan, a next-door neighbor, smelled smoke while on his way to bed and thought it was coming from somewhere in the home he shares with his parents.
His mother, Bea Moynihan, said her son went into the kitchen to see if anything had been left cooking on the stove. He found nothing wrong and wandered outside to see if the outdoor wires to the family's cable TV had been damaged somehow by the night's heavy rainfall.
Once outside, her son, a former volunteer firefighter, noticed the flames at the home next door, rushed back into his house for protective clothing and a ladder.
Mrs. Moynihan called the 911 emergency number and awakened another son, Robert F. Moynihan, who helped Daniel in an unsuccessful attempt to reach their neighbors. They broke out a window and kicked in the home's front door, only to find the family's dog, cat and her kittens dead, Mrs. Moynihan said.
Intense heat and smoke prevented the two brothers from going any further into the home, said Prince George's County Fire Chief Jim Estepp.
The victims -- Frank Seivert, 30, Jennene Pizza, 31, Anthony Seivert, 2, and Angelica Seivert, 5 -- were found dead in their bedroom by firefighters.
Fire officials believed the blaze began in the basement ceiling around an electrical fixture, and then travelled up into the first floor of the home.
The fire "probably smoldered and burned very slowly, maybe even for several hours," before it extended up through the ceiling, Chief Estepp said.
Fire officials said deadly carbon monoxide probably incapacitated the family while they slept. The house did not have a smoke detector -- an inexpensive device that might have saved them, the chief said.
The boy, Anthony, would have celebrated his third birthday on Christmas Day. His sister had turned 5 on Friday.
"They were such sweet little children. They drew things for me on Halloween and I took pictures. It's really sickening," said Mrs. Moynihan, who had known the children's father since he was a child.
Firefighters, arriving within six minutes of the call to 911, brought the blaze under control in half an hour.