Updated 1 hr 59 mins ago
QUEENS VILLAGE, Queens (WABC) -- Investigators are trying to determine what sparked a house fire in Queens Sunday that killed five people, New York City's deadliest fire in two years.
Police say the victims were two boys, a 2-year-old and a 10-year-old; two girls, a 16-year-old and a 17-year-old; and a 20-year-old woman.
A sixth person, a 46-year-old man, was able to escape out a second-floor window and was taken to Queens General Hospital where he is expected to survive.
The fire broke out in a house on 112-16 208th Street in Queens Village just after 2:30 p.m. The fire also spread to an adjacent home - that home was damaged, but no one was home at the time.
The three-alarm fire took hours to get under control, and the wooden frame of the house burned quickly.
The flames were so intense that the black smoke drew neighbors from their homes, and the flames could be seen by firefighters before they arrived, leading them to call in extra crews.
They struggled to reach some of the victims who were as high up as the attic, a "super-human" task for firefighters to reach people in a home engulfed by such a massive fire, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.
They managed to bring a 2-year-old and someone else from the attic where they had been trapped, he said. But they were too late to save them.
Investigators will closely examine a car parked in a driveway between the two houses that burned.
The fire appears to have started or spread through the car to the two adjacent homes. The other home was unoccupied at the time.
Witnesses heard tires pop, which may have been mistaken for an explosion.
"We are just beginning our investigation," said Nigro. "Our fire marshals will determine where the fire started, they'll determine how it started, they'll work with police detectives and we'll come to a conclusion. But we're far from that right now."
Distraught family members and neighbors showed up to the scene, crying and asking 'why would God let this happen?'
No firefighters were seriously injured.
The mother of the 2-year-old victim was away on vacation and left him in the hands of relatives.
"She's a good mother, she was always with her baby," said relative Sheener Bailey Briggs. "And she went for the first time on an airplane, the first time away from her baby and she just found out. Just pray for the family."
The fire was the deadliest in the nation's biggest city since March 2015, when a house fire in Brooklyn killed seven children, all siblings. That fire was touched off by a hot plate.