Derrick Anderson tried to get his family out, but he couldn’t.
Firefighters also tried, but they were too late.
In minutes, flames engulfed a Broadmoor home Tuesday morning, trapping three children and two adults inside and killing them.
Two girls, Jayla Anderson, 7, and Jade Anderson, 12, died in the fire, as did their 11-year-old brother, Jason Anderson. Their mother, Christina Squire, 33, and grandmother, Martha Anderson, 77, also died.
The fire at the home in the 4300 block of South Miro Street was reported about 12:15 a.m.
When firefighters arrived five minutes later, they found smoke and flames coming from the first and second floors, Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell said.
Derrick Anderson told them that his mother, girlfriend and three children were still inside and that he was not able to get them out.
“Unfortunately, it was too late,” McConnell said of firefighters’ efforts to save the victims. “The guys are taking it pretty hard. You hear kids, and you try to get in there.”
McConnell said the home had no working smoke detectors.
A cause was not immediately determined, but the fire is believed to have begun in the grandmother’s first-floor bedroom, which had an oxygen machine in it, McConnell said.
McConnell and Frederick Anderson, Martha Anderson’s other son, said the woman was bedridden and was a smoker.
A dog used to sniff out accelerants, a typical sign of arson, found no traces of any, McConnell said.
Hours after the fire was out, Frederick Anderson walked through the house, which was badly burned and charred. He said the flames spared little.
“The heat had to be intense,” he said, noting that the other four victims died on the second floor. “Whatever it was that fueled it, it fueled it fast. They didn’t have a chance.”
The fire was the deadliest in the city since a blaze at a 9th Ward warehouse in December 2010 killed eight young people who were using the building as a makeshift shelter, McConnell said.
News of Tuesday’s fire and the deaths spread quickly through the neighborhood, which the family has called home for about 40 years.
Many neighbors stood in stunned silence as they awoke to find the home burned.
All three children attended Andrew H. Wilson Charter School across the street from their home.
As faculty and staff arrived Tuesday morning, many of them walked up to the corner in tears, having already heard about what happened.
The school closed at noon. It was scheduled to reopen Wednesday. Officials said grief counselors would be available for all students.
“The staff, the principal — they’re just crushed,” said David Winkler-Schmit, president of the Broadmoor Charter School Board, which governs Wilson.
Logan Crowe, the school’s principal, described the three dead children as good, involved students.
“In a word, they were just marvelous children,” he said.
Jayla was involved in the school’s marching band and a club that tends a small garden in front of the school, said Ronicka Briscoe, the assistant principal.
“You don’t find kinder kids,” she said.
A woman who identified herself only as Mrs. Weber, an instructor with the New Orleans String Project, which teaches young people to play stringed instruments, said the two girls recently had been taking viola lessons from her at the school and were enthusiastic about the endeavor.
Weber said she learned about the fire earlier in the morning but didn’t realize the Anderson home was affected. She let out an audible gasp when she saw the charred remains.
“I didn’t want to think it was this house,” she said.
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who before taking office was a neighborhood activist in Broadmoor, arrived at the corner in tears just after sunrise.
She later spoke with students at Wilson in an effort to reassure them that they would be OK, even if the coming days and weeks might be tough.
“This community, this school community is resilient,” she said.
Firefighters returned to the home Tuesday evening to nail plywood over the burned-out windows in an effort to mask the damage from the Wilson students.
Cantrell described Martha Anderson as a cornerstone of the neighborhood, someone who had lived there for decades and was one of the first to return and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina badly flooded the area.
Squire, she said, was a dedicated mother who was a regular presence at the school.
“They were pillars in the community,” Cantrell said.
Donations for the family may be made online at gofundme.com/wilsoncharter, or by check dropped off at the school or mailed to Darius Munchak, Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, 3617 Gen. Pershing St., New Orleans, LA 70125.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.