Lydia "Lily" Muniz awoke early yesterday to her sister's cries of "Lily! Lily!"
Quickly, she stumbled down the hall, toward the screams coming from her sister's room, only to find the entire room in flames.
A friend rushed over and kicked open the door to the horrific scene inside.
"We see someone standing there burning," Muniz recalled yesterday through long bouts of weeping. "I know it was my sister because she was the last person who called my name."
As Muniz watched in horror, the flames spread quickly into the hallway, prompting her to grab her daughter, Ashley, 4 - whom she had left in her bedroom - and flee the house, on Anchor Street near Ditman, in Wissinoming.
Outside, neighbors in pajamas stumbled into the street to watch, offer help and await firefighters.
"I heard the screams for quite a while," said neighbor Gabriela Beck. "They screamed for a long time and then they stopped, so I thought they got out."
But death, and not rescue, ended the screams that continued to echo in neighbors' minds hours after the 2:30 a.m. blaze.
Annzelma Cintron, 19, her boyfriend, Miguel Rodriguez, 22, and her son, Roberto Otero, 3, had perished in the fire that was sparked by candles placed too close to combustibles, investigators said.
Rodriguez, friends say, was set to ask Cintron for her hand in marriage on Friday.
Executive Fire Chief Daniel Williams said the home had two smoke detectors, but neither had a working battery.
Muniz said she had asked the landlord for smoke detectors and finally bought two herself last week. They weren't installed, she said, because they forgot to buy the batteries.
The property owner, surveying the charred remains yesterday morning, declined to identify himself or comment.
Muniz said her sister had previously damaged a TV in the home after letting a candle burn too long on the appliance.
"I've been telling them not to light the candles. Turn [them] off before bed," Muniz said.
The deaths raised the city's fire fatalities to six so far this year. Portable heaters ignited the three previous fatal blazes, and those homes also had no working smoke detectors, fire officials said.
Because all six of the year's fire deaths were preventable, frustrated fire officials urged citizens yesterday to exercise greater caution when lighting and heating their homes.
"We want all of our citizens to study our home fire-safety checklist and do all of the things on that checklist to stay safe," said Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.
"The first thing they need to do is make sure they have working smoke detectors. People with smoke detectors walk out the door. People who are dying are not following the good, orderly directions from the fire department."
Outside the gutted, two-story brick rowhouse Muniz and Rodriguez had rented for about eight months, neighbors relived the night's tragedy with shaky voices.
Bruce Wager was getting ready to go to work when he heard the screams, saw smoke outside and called 911.
"One of the girls ran over here in her underwear - my wife gave her a bathrobe," said Wager, 57, referring to Muniz.
After the tragedy set in, Muniz was seen sobbing in the street as she pleaded with bystanders to rescue her relatives inside, neighbors said. But rolling flames, blinding smoke and exploding windows kept watchers at bay.
Neighbors described Roberto as an outgoing tot who doted on a pit-bull puppy the family briefly owned last summer.
Muniz said of Cintron, "I had so much fun with her."
She said Cintron had recently completed a job-training program and had landed a job at the newly opened Saladworks eatery on Spring Garden Street near 15th.
Ayers called the blaze, which began in a second-floor bedroom the victims shared, a "horrific" fire that burned so intensely it incinerated everything in its path.
Firefighters revisited the block yesterday afternoon to distribute fire-safety materials and smoke detectors to residents who couldn't afford them.