Children playing with a lighter started the fire that swept through an Arlington apartment complex Saturday, killing a woman and an 11-year-old girl, fire officials said Thursday.
The children, who are under 10, were burning paper in the building's breezeway when the fire got out of control, according to a statement from the Arlington Fire Department.
They did not tell anyone about the fire, which allowed the flames "to grow substantially before 911 was called," fire officials said.
Because of the children's ages, authorities will not pursue criminal charges but instead refer the case to Child Protective Services, the statement said.
The fire started in a first-floor breezeway about 1 p.m. Saturday at the Tanglewood Apartments, 2015 E. Abram St. It quickly spread through the two-story, 20-unit building, forcing some residents to leap from the second floor. One person fled ablaze.
Erica Joyner, 11, and Kimberly Moore, 29, were found dead in separate upstairs apartments.
Joyner was not among the children playing with the lighter, fire Lt. Pedro Arevalo said.
"It's a tragedy," her father, Eric Joyner, said Thursday. "I know these kids were young and probably being mischievous and just doing something they shouldn't be doing. I'm sad for my daughter, the other woman who died and everyone who got hurt."
Lisa Roberts, the complex's assistant manager, said she believes she knows the identity of one of the children because several tenants told her that they had seen him playing with a lighter that day and had told him to stop.
Roberts, who described herself as Moore's best friend, said she doesn't believe that the boy was trying to hurt anyone.
"He has never been malicious or destructive," she said. "I think what probably happened is the fire got started and they just panicked, like children do sometimes, and tried to get away so they wouldn't get blamed."
Roberts and Joyner said they wonder why the children's parents weren't watching them.
The fire injured two residents, one critically.
Martin A. Cuellar, 34, remained at Parkland Memorial Hospital on Thursday but had improved to serious condition, a hospital official said.
A 48-year-old woman suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
The fire started at the bottom of the building's single stairwell, fire officials said.
By the time firefighters arrived, it had spread to the second floor.
Damage is estimated at $370,000.
Alex Branch, 817-390-7689