SIOUX FALLS (AP) -- A fire that tore through a home in Sioux Falls on Saturday morning killed three children and sent two adults to the hospital, leaving a neighborhood in mourning just days before Christmas.

The children were found in a room on the second story of the frame house on North Main Avenue near Tower Park, Fire Rescue Chief Jim Sideras told reporters. He didn't know the condition of the adults, who had managed to escape and were outside when firefighters arrived.

The victims' names were not immediately released, but neighbors said the children especially brightened the neighborhood on the city's north side.

"They were wonderful, happy, cheerful. I loved those kids," Brianna Hart, 14, told the Argus Leader newspaper. "Never did I see one of those kids crying."

The children often played outside their house, she said. The youngest was a toddler.

The fire was reported about 8 a.m. When firefighters arrived, the home was already engulfed, with flames shooting from nearly every west-side window on both floors, Sideras said.

Firefighters tried to enter the home but were forced back by the heat.

"Once the temperatures get up so high, you physically can't get in. It's so hot," the chief said. "It's a pretty helpless feeling. ... You're trying to save these people and knowing you can't, no matter how hard you try. It's a hard pill to swallow. I don't think you ever get past it."

Chaplains are working with firefighters to help them cope and other counselors will be made available, Sideras told KELO-TV.

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are working with the fire marshal to determine the cause of the blaze.