Updated 09/28/11 – 5:29 p.m.

HICKORY HILLS, Ill. (CBS) — Two children – a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old – died Wednesday afternoon after they were pulled out of a burning home in the southwestern suburbs.

The fire started around noon at 8921 Emerald Ct. in Hickory Hills. A neighbor said two children were pulled out of the home and taken away in ambulances.

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed both children were later pronounced dead at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

The children were identified as Ayob Saleh, 5, and Raed Saleh, 3.

When firefighters arrived the mother – who doesn’t speak English – was outside, crying.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bob Roberts reports

“The mother, I believe, was on the front lawn across the street, pretty hysterical,” Roberts Park Fire District Chief Jeff Ketchen said. “Through a translator, we learned that there were two children still left in the house. The crews went to work right away, they made a quick knock on the fire and they did encounter two children in an upstairs bedroom.”

Neighbors heard the commotion and tried to help, but were driven back by the flames.

Ralph Lichosyt saw the mother outside, essentially collapsed in grief.

“She was sitting on the lawn and she couldn’t get up basically,” he said.

The kids were rushed to the hospital but couldn’t be saved.

Ketchen said his men will need some counseling to get through what they saw and experienced while trying in vain to save the children.

“That’s always a tough thing when you encounter children and later this afternoon, we’ll be assembling the critical incident stress debriefing team, which is a team of specialists that comes out and talks to the guys and helps them through it,” Ketchen said.

But as hard as it was on the firefighters, it was much harder for family members.

Muhammed Ali, a cousin of the boys’ father, spoke with reporters shortly after he learned the news.

“Even dad, he can’t speak anything. He was crying,” Ali said. “It’s too hard, you know, I mean there’s nothing you can say.

Neighbors said the boys could always be seen playing in front of their home and described them as fun-loving kids who played together.

The boys were unconscious when they were pulled out by the firefighters. There was no fire in the room at the time, just way too much toxic smoke and fumes.

As of Wednesday afternoon, there was no word on what caused the fire, but all indications are that this was a tragic accident.

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