ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A St. Louis mother and father are charged after their four children were found home alone during a house fire last month.

Emergency crews rescued the four children from a fire in south St. Louis on August 15. The fire broke out shortly before 1 p.m. at a home at Caroline and Ohio, and firefighters were alerted when a passerby saw smoke come from a second floor window. 

Keith J. Witherspoon & Crystal Ford mugshots

The children's parents, Crystal Ford, 27, and Keith J. Witherspoon, 33, are charged with four counts of endangering the welfare of a minor.

The children, all age five or younger, were alone in the home without any parents. 

Firefighters didn't know the children were inside until they arrived on scene.

The fire took place on the second floor of a three-family unit, and the layout made it difficult for firefighters to quickly access the second floor. 

The front door to the unit on fire was actually around the side of the building, so firefighters had to access the unit from a back door.  

The fire was in the front of the house and the children were hiding in the back of the house.

"One was hiding in the closest, two were in like a little children's tent. One was laying near the door and it looks like the children might have left the front room ran to the bedroom, and pushed the door shut partially. It was still open a little bit, which probably saved their lives and kept them alive until we got there," said St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson.

All four children were transported to local hospitals, three of them in critical condition. 

As of 2:45 p.m, all four are stable, but three of the children will remain hospitalized.

South City Fire

4 children under the age of 5 were critically injured when a fire broke out in their home when they were alone.

It's unknown what caused the fire. There were smoke detectors in the building but they were reportedly not working. Per city code, working smoke detectors are the responsibility of the building owner. 

Police are investigating why the children were left alone.

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