MANCHESTER, N.H. >> A Manchester neighborhood is mourning the loss of two "bright," "tough" boys who died early Monday in a fast-moving fire that tore through the apartment building they lived in with two adults.
"They had so much energy, so much life in them," said Eddie Torres, a board member of a local nonprofit that worked with the boys, identified by Torres and others as half brothers, ages 8 and 10.
Officials haven't released the names of the victims publicly. Friends and neighbors said the boys' mother and the father of one boy were the two adult victims. The four lived together in the apartment building. Thirty other people were safely evacuated from the building.
Officials haven't yet said the cause of the fire.
The street in front of the three-story building was still roped off as fire officials investigated. A makeshift memorial of candles and flowers is set up around a stop sign on a nearby corner. Volunteers for Roca Kidz Club, a nonprofit that provides homework help and after-school activities for neighborhood children, have been on the scene offering support.
The two brothers attended the club's Tuesday and Thursday night events. Grief counselors will be on hand at Tuesday's homework club to help children mourning the loss of the friends, Torres said. A celebration planned for Thursday in honor of the nonprofit's fifth anniversary will now be held in honor of the boys.
Torres said the boys were rambunctious and sometimes tough and willing to get into fights. But he said they also were friendly and always made up with others quickly. The after-school program offers snacks, activities and spiritual lessons through its church affiliation. Torres said the boys were good at math and reading, but sometimes seemed like "they were operating in survival mode."
The neighborhood, on Manchester's east side, is a mix of apartment buildings and businesses, including convenience stores and auto shops. Volunteers for Roca Kidz Club say many of the children they mentor come from low-income or single-parent homes. Manchester, the state's largest city, is facing a heroin and opioid abuse crisis, and officials and neighbors say drugs are prevalent in the area. The neighborhood is diverse, with many Hispanic and immigrant families.
Friends and neighbors say the adult male victim would drop off the boys at school and afternoon programs and pick them up. Rosemarie Trofin, who lives in the apartment building next door, said the man was friendly and looked out for his boys.
Torres and Trofin both said they rarely saw the boys' mothers, who worked at a laundromat. Trofin said her sons were friends with the boys and pulled up a cellphone photo of one of her young sons standing arm-in-arm, smiling, with one of the victims.
Her eyes tearing, Trofin described seeing a firefighter carry one of the boys out of the apartment building and give him CPR.
"I couldn't sleep" the next night, she said.
Family members could not be reached by the Associated Press.