(WMC) - A Memphis father is behind bars, charged with child abuse, and his children are thought to have set their apartment on fire.
Scattered all over the parking lot Saturday afternoon: a pile of charred toys, clothes, shoes, even a mattress. All of it left behind from the apartment fire.
"Smoke was pouring out of that building, they came out crying, they barely had clothes on," said Denaya Daily.
Memphis firefighters were called to the scene Friday night after neighbors reported flames coming from an apartment window. Three children were inside the apartment at the time and two roof contractors helped rescue them.
The children came out asking for their dad and told investigators he left them inside alone and told them not to leave under any circumstances.
"It's sad because children that small should not be left by themselves. Where ever the father went he should have taken them with him. I'm sure it wasn't that important for him to leave them by themselves," said Vee Phillips.
Jesse Townsend, 25, was taken into custody and charged with child abuse and neglect.
Investigators determined the fire started after the kids found a cigarette lighter in the bedroom. While playing with the lighter, something caught fire.
"Stuff like that shouldn't even be around any small kids like that period," noted the neighbor.
Neighbors say the mother of the children was at work at the time and left them with Townsend. They say he was in the complex when the fire started, but not in the apartment.
As the debris sits piled outside the apartment, neighbors can't help but think about how much worse this could have been.