Loved ones mourn 2 girls killed in apartment fire in Pompano Beach

Shelter hearing scheduled Tuesday for mother's third child

POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – A family and a community are grieving after two young girls were killed in an apartment fire over the weekend. 

The sisters were just 5 months old and 5 years old. 

The charred apartment was boarded up by Monday.

The state fire marshal is investigating the cause of the fire.

Neighbors at the Pompano Beach apartment complex, meanwhile, have created a makeshift memorial in honor of the young sisters who were killed in the fire Saturday.

"It was devastating. Lot of people still can't believe it," Blanca Torres said. 

"The little girl -- she used to play with all the other little kids here," another neighbor said. 

Authorities said 5-month-old Abigail Espinoza and her sister, Sofia Melendez, 5, were being watched by their 15-year-old aunt while their mother, Jocelyn Melendez, 23, was at work Saturday morning. 

Authorities said the fire started around 9:30 a.m. inside the apartment unit. 

Cellphone video shows thick smoke billowing from the third-floor apartment as neighbors rushed over to help.

"We broke the windows with a fire extinguisher that is next to it," Emmanuel Dupre said. "We tried to yell to see if there were any kids. Nobody. No parents or anything. But if we knew there were kids in there crying or something, we would've went in."

Firefighters arrived within minutes and doused the flames.

Once inside the charred apartment, they discovered the bodies of the young girls. Neighbors said the victims' aunt might have briefly left the apartment. 

"Apparently, (neighbors) are saying she went to buy milk and left them alone," Torres said. "(We) really don't know what happened."

The apartment was boarded up Monday as managers walked around the property.

Management declined to comment on the status of the fire alarms at the complex.

But a worker servicing the alarms Monday afternoon said they were functional on the day of the fire and triggered the response from the fire department. 

A shelter hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday regarding Melendez's third child.


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