- Associated Press - Monday, December 15, 2014

HAMILTON, Ohio (AP) - A house fire that killed three children in southwest Ohio started in the family’s living room, but investigators are still working to pinpoint the cause, fire officials said Monday.

Relatives have said there was a Christmas tree in the living room, but a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal said investigators are also looking at other possible points of ignition such as electrical outlets and extension cords.

“It’s a process of elimination,” fire marshal spokeswoman Lindsey Burnworth said Monday.

There’s no estimate on when the investigation will be completed into the early Friday fire in Hamilton.

Relatives have been flocking to support the family of a man recovering from burns he sustained while trying to save his children. He was hospitalized in critical condition.

His wife and two other children escaped without serious injury.

Raphael Flores of Indianapolis said much of his brother Ismael Flores’ large family, including their parents from Mexico, have come to Hamilton.

“We all came. We’re all here for (him),” said Raphael Flores, who arrived Sunday. “We can’t believe this.”

Firefighters said they found Ismael Flores at the house, badly burned after he tried to get to his children in a fire that was blazing through the two-story house. Firefighters had to deploy ladders and get into the house on the second floor because the first floor was engulfed.

“He’s going to be OK,” Raphael said of his brother. “He’s got bad burns around his neck, but we think he’s going to be OK.”

He was hospitalized Friday in critical condition. A message was left Monday at University of Cincinnati Medical Center seeking an updated condition.

The dead children were identified as Alexander Flores-Ortiz, 7; Siclali Flores-Ortiz, 10, and Yesenia Flores-Ortiz, 12.

Their mother and two other children, ages 9 and 2, were treated and released at a hospital Friday.

“There is nothing but sadness here,” Ismael Flores’ wife, Crystal, told The Cincinnati Enquirer on Sunday. “I’m thankful for the city and the church, but there is nothing happy here.”

The Freedom Chapel, a neighborhood ministry the children attended, is raising money for funeral services, and other efforts are underway to help the family. Stuffed animals, flowers, cards and other items were piled in memorial outside the home.

“They stole our hearts,” Freedom Chapel pastor Walt Philpot told the Hamilton-Middletown Journal-News on Sunday morning before services at the small church. “We have loved those children, immensely we have loved those children.”

In their last visit last Wednesday, the children worked on crafts for Christmas gifts and made cards.

“Merry Christmas Mom I love you!!” Siclali wrote on hers. “Hope you enjoy the Holiday!!”

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