A child playing with a lighter likely caused a fire that left nine people injured, three of them in grave condition, and destroyed two units at a condominium complex in San Juan Capistrano on Tuesday, authorities said.
The fire was reported at about 9:15 a.m. in the 26500 block of La Zanja Street (map), Capt. Steve Concialdi of the Orange County Fire Authority said.
The blaze began in a four-bedroom apartment where 17 people lived, officials on scene said later Tuesday afternoon.
Before firefighters arrived at the scene, a woman trapped on the second story of the burning building had "carefully" tossed her 2-year-old and 3-year-old daughters, as well as a 5-year-old boy, down to neighbors who were waiting below, Concialdi said.
Eventually, a woman in her mid-40s also jumped from the second-story window. Rescuers found her on the ground in serious condition, Concialdi said. She had burns and injuries from the jump and smoke inhalation.
Neighbors told authorities there were more people still trapped in the building. Firefighters rescued a 20-year-old woman, and two boys, aged 2 and 3, authorities said.
The trio who were rescued were in grave condition, officials on scene said Tuesday afternoon. Concialdi had originally said only a woman and one young boy were in grave condition.
A total of nine people, including six children, were injured in the fire, Concialdi said.
Rescuers also found a small dog hiding inside a drawer during a secondary search of the building. The dog was given oxygen and appeared to be OK.
Two units were destroyed, including the one where the fire started. Six other units had smoke and water damage, authorities said.
Late Tuesday, fire officials said the fire was most likely caused by a juvenile playing with a lighter in the living room.
Red Cross volunteers were on-site to help residents in need of a place to stay, clothing, food and medication. About 80 people -- those who live in the eight units that were affected -- were displaced.
A shelter for those displaced residents was set up at Capistrano Valley High School at 26301 Via Escolar in Mission Viejo.
Code enforcement officials would be investigating the situation at the apartment. Fire officials said it was not clear if there was anything illegal about 17 people living in one apartment, but said that the increased number of mattresses, linens and clothing may have added fuel to the fire.
Officials also said that while there were smoke detectors in the condo, they weren't working because the batteries were dead.