AUSTIN (KXAN) - An accidental house fire -- sparked by an electrical malfunction in a truck nearby -- killed two brothers, ages 5 and 7, Tuesday morning in Southeast Austin.
Authorities said the fire, which started in the 2001 Ford F150 truck parked outside, spread to the home.
The pickup is the same model officials issued a recall for in 2005 for a defective cruise control disconnect. Even when the engine is turned off, power continues to flow to the switch, causing it to overheat and start a fire.
The fire began shortly after 3 a.m., at 6226 Wagon Bend Trail in the Dove Springs neighborhood. Neighbors reported hearing popping sounds and a woman in the yard screaming about her children.
Austin Fire Department Battalion Chief Thayer Smith said there were seven people in the home at the time, and all escaped the fire except two children. The initial 911 call was for vehicles on fire.
Firefighters were able to pull the children out within 12 minutes of the first fire call, but the children died outside.
Officials said that two male adults, two females adults and three children lived in the home.
Fire Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr said in a briefing on Tuesday afternoon that the boys had minimal burns and she speculated that smoke or carbon monoxide killed them. Efforts were made to resuscitate them, she said, but they failed.
"We started an aggressive primary search while knocking down the fire and found victims in the residence and transferred them to EMS for care," said Smith.
The youngest treated was an infant who was taken to Dell Children's Medical Center for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.
One neighbor said he woke up to what sounded like gunshots.
"Next thing I know I hear 'Pop, pop, pop!' and I run out and I see the whole house on fire," said Paul Cereantes. "I heard a woman yelling, 'Help! My kids are in the garage.'"
Officials believe the popping noise heard was the sound of the vehicle's tires blowing out.
AFD officials also said there were no working smoke detectors inside the home. They were installed, but the homeowner told fire officials that sometimes they had batteries and worked, and sometimes they did not.
The Austin Fire Department will canvass the neighborhood later this week to make sure everyone has working smoke detectors.
Meanwhile, the fire caused $100,000 in damage to the home and $40,000 in damage to belongings, and $13,000 damage to both vehicles.
Ford truck recalls
At that time, the Ford recall included 800,000 vehicles -- including the 2001 F-series SuperCrew trucks. In addition, Ford said there had been 63 reports of fires and one injury when they issued that recall seven years ago.
In March 2011, Ford issued another recall on its F-series trucks.
Ford Motor Co. on March 2, 2011 recalled about 35,000 pickup trucks and crossover vehicles in the U.S. and Canada because of possible fuel leaks and electrical shorts that could lead to fires.
Separately, Ford is recalling more than 9,000 trucks and crossovers to fix a software problem that could lead to an electrical short and overheating, potentially causing a fire. The recall involves 2011 model years of the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers and the Ford F150, F250, F350, F450, F550 trucks.
Owners can contact Ford at 866-436-7332 for additional details.
View recall information on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's website.
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