SINGAPORE, June 24 — A father believes the lives of his two toddlers were saved by the quick-thinking actions of the older child, aged three, when the pair were trapped in a fierce fire in the family's Marsiling flat.

Shah Ain, 23, said the toddlers were home alone when the fire broke out in a bedroom where they were sleeping about 10.40pm on Wednesday (June 22) after his wife had gone out briefly to buy groceries nearby.

The three-year-old said he had dragged his brother, aged one, away from the burning bedroom to the living room, Shah, a food delivery driver, told TODAY yesterday.

“My first son has blisters on his ears because he was protecting his younger brother and hugging him. Most of the injuries, he took for his brother,” he said, tearing up. His younger son sustained minor cuts.

The toddlers were found conscious in the living room by two police officers who had evacuated about 60 residents in the area of the fire, which was in a second-floor Housing and Development Board (HDB) unit of Block 218 in Marsiling Crescent.

The pair were taken by ambulance to KK Women's and Children's Hospital. They are expected to be discharged on Friday, said Shah.

The decision of the police to search for the toddlers appears to have been prompted by Shah's next door neighbour, Sebastian Ng, 26.

He told TODAY yesterday that he realised there was a fire because of the strong smell. After leaving his flat, he saw a thick cloud of black smoke coming from his neighbour's flat and heard several explosions.

“I carried my kids down the block before I came back to check my neighbour's flat,” Ng said.

He described his relationship with Shah's family as friendly, as he often saw the two toddlers playing along the corridor.

“My wife heard the babies crying so I went back to open the door and because the smoke was so thick, we thought that we misheard (the sound of crying),” he said. Before he could enter the flat, he heard another explosion. Feeling uneasy, he then told the police officers at the stairwell to go into the flat to check if the two toddlers were inside.

“Luckily I told the officers because the kids were really inside. But I feel bad for not going in sooner,” he said.

Left the house briefly for groceries

Shah said his wife, aged 22, had gone out briefly to buy groceries nearby, leaving the two toddlers at home alone.

A few minutes after heading out, she received a call from her neighbour, informing her that a fire had broken out at her flat. She then called Shah who immediately thought of the children's safety.

He said: “I panicked, because it was already past 10pm and my sons would usually be sleeping around 9.30pm. So I was worried about them.”

Though he is still unclear on how the fire started, he said that it started in their bedroom, where the toddlers were sleeping.

In a statement on Facebook, the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) said when its officers had arrived at the scene “the fire was raging and thick black smoke was emitting from the unit”.

When TODAY spoke to Shah outside his flat, he was moving his remaining possessions to a replacement flat in the area. Among the items salvaged were two bicycles, a drawer of clothes, several pairs of shoes, a skateboard, photographs and documents. The bedroom and living room were completely charred, with all of the furniture, such as the bed and sofa burned.

He said: “When I first saw my house, I couldn't think of anything. Because there isn't a lot that I can take, most of the items have been damaged already. This is the first house I have rented.

“For the items, I will just ask HDB to throw away. There's nothing much I can do now.”

The couple live together with their two kids, and moved into the flat late last year.

“We really needed to find a rental house because my family house is quite crowded so we had no space to sleep. At least we had a bigger space to sleep,” he said.

Shah said that because he had just moved in recently, he was grateful that his neighbours went the extra mile.

“I am not very close to my neighbours because I just moved in so I did not expect this at all,” he said. ― TODAY