SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Two children died early Tuesday morning following a house fire in South Sacramento.

The fire started around 2:30 a.m. in the 2200 block of Babette Way, which is southwest of Meadowview Road and 24th Street.

When firefighters arrived at the two-story residence, the flames had already engulfed the house and smoke poured out of windows and the front door. They tried to reach two kids upstairs, but the stairs had already collapsed. Firefighters used ladders to get to the second floor, but by then it was too late.

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The children’s mother, LaDonna Lee, identified the children as Ire Johnson, an 11-year-old girl, and Israel Johnson, a 6-year-old boy.

HOW TO HELP: Donations should be made out to the “Cole Family Memorial Fund” and can be dropped off at any Wells Fargo location.

“I can’t remember what he said to me on the phone. He said, ‘They’re gone, LaDonna, they’re gone; they’re gone LaDonna, they’re gone;’ and I just hung up,” said Johnson. “Yeah, a lot of conversations are kind of blurry; a lot of conversations are blurry.”

Both were enrolled at Union House Elementary School in the Elk Grove Unified School District. A district spokesperson issued a statement about the “disheartening” incident, which reads, in part:

“When we learned that the children attended school in the Elk Grove Unified School District we were deeply saddened.

The two students were enrolled at Union House Elementary School and the principal of the school has been in contact with the family to offer our deepest condolences and support.

Out of respect for the family and those lost, we are currently focused on communicating and providing counseling and assistance to our staff, students and the family.

This is a somber moment for all of us and our hearts and prayers go out to the children’s family and their loved ones.”

“No words can understand just what those kids went through when it happened,” said Kareemah Sylvester, a nearby resident. “I’m shaking because I can’t fathom it.”

Five other people at the home were able to evacuate safely.

Investigators are now working to determine what started the fire.

A firefighter reportedly suffered first- and second-degree burns to his neck and ears.