Investigators: 4-year-old playing with lighter started apartment fire that injured three

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AURORA, Colo. -- A little boy’s curiosity sparked an apartment fire in Aurora that sent three people to the hospital Tuesday, according to firefighters.  Rescuers also had to save two family dogs.

It happened about 9:45 a.m. at the Abrigo Apartments at 12170 E. 30th Ave.

“My dogs are in there!” Susan Nieves shouted on cellphone video posted on her niece’s Facebook page.

She was beside herself as she watched her apartment burn.

“My mom was really freaking out. I was trying to calm her down. She was trying to go into the apartment again,” said Nieves' son, Tyler Pitt.

She had already gotten herself and her visiting 4-year-old grandson out. But her other two “babies” were still inside.

“She’s my therapy dog. She gets me through everything -- like when I’m sad and stuff. And now I’ve lost everything,” Nieves said.

“They brought her out. She was pretty much almost dead,” she said about her 1 1/2-year-old Chihuahua-mix, Princess.

But firefighters put Princess on oxygen and seemingly brought her back to life.

“It looks promising for this dog. I think we need 24 hours to see how she is going to do,” said Dr. David Israel of VCA Alameda East Animal Hospital, where she was recovering Monday night.

He said she does not have lung damage caused by smoke inhalation or any obvious burns. Little did firefighters know there was another life inside the charred apartment.

“She was in the couch for about 20 minutes after the fire started. So we thought she was gone. And nope, the fireman was like, ‘We found her. She’s alive,’” said Nieves’ niece, Shai Mascarenas.

“Her name was Pancha. Now it’s Miracle,” said Nieves about her 18-year-old son’s new puppy.

There’s not a scratch on her. Three others, including an Aurora police officer, didn’t come out of it as easy, which makes the cause of the fire hard to understand.

“They talked to my grandson and they said he was playing with a lighter,” Nieves said.

The fire started in the closet in a bedroom the 4-year-old had been asleep in.

“I thought he was still sleeping,” she said.

Instead, child’s play turned into a loss of their life’s possessions.

"I could use all the help right now because we lost everything," Nieves said.

"Everything is gone, everything is lost. I hope he learns from this experience,” Pitt said.

But he’s grateful everyone is alive.

“It could have been a lot worse. It could have spread throughout the entire complex," Pitt said.

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