NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — The New Orleans Police Department is investigating the emergency response time in connection to a fatal fire that claimed the lives of three children in New Orleans East.

The investigation will be conducted by the the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau.

The investigation follows public criticism that if help had arrived sooner, the children might have been saved.

The New Orleans Fire Department was the first to arrive on the scene to find the house in flames in the 4600 block of America Street. Neighbors told firefighters that the children might be trapped inside.

Several minutes earlier, the children’s mother had called 911 from her car, saying that the children’s father, Joseph Washington, had threatened to burn down the house. The mother told the 911 operator that she was not home but rushing to get there.

Firefighters found a 5-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy unresponsive a few feet from the door inside the house. They tried to resuscitate them before they were taken to a hospital by EMS.

Both died from their injuries.

Firefighters also found a 3-year-old boy deceased near the rear of the house.

Data from the Orleans Parish Communication District shows police officers did not arrive until 12:20 a.m., 26 minutes after the mother’s first 911 call.

“Three children died in this situation. This is a domestic violence case. I said in front of the council—I’ll say it to the community—we are going to take domestic violence seriously in this city,” said NOPD Superintendent Anne Kirkpatrick.

Washington is in the custody of the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office on a $2 million bond.

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