CLEVELAND (AP) _ Four children died in an apartment fire that was discovered by chance early Tuesday as firefighters put out flames in a car just down the street, officials said.

The ages and identities of the children were not immediately known.

Assistant Fire Chief Mike Darnell said firefighters were responding to a car fire on the city's east side at about 4:45 a.m. when they saw smoke pouring from a three-story building.

People were hanging second- and third-story windows, Darnell said, and a second fire truck with a ladder long enough to reach them was called in.

When the ladder reached the third floor, firefighters rescued a man who said four of his children were missing. The youngsters were found together in a room, he said.

The cause of the fire wasn't immediately clear, but arson investigators could be seen through the broken windows early Monday.

A sign was posted in a street-level restaurant window in the building read: ``Closed today due 2 our loss.''