The 37-year-old mother was pronounced dead at the scene and the two children, ages 13 and 2, died later at a hospital, Charlotte Fire Department Capt. Rob Brisley said.
He said the woman's 18-year-old son escaped the blaze unhurt and called 911. The first of three calls came in at 1:18 a.m. A fire engine arrived within two minutes, and firefighters pulled the mother and two children from the burning apartment.
"This family is devastated," Brisley told The Gaston Gazette newspaper. "We have a family of four here that has suffered a tragic situation. A fire incident like this early on has more questions than answers."
Brisley says a task force that includes police and fire investigators is seeking the fire's cause
- but he said early indications suggest it was an accident.
The names of the victims were not immediately released.
"The firefighters got here as quick as we could, however, the fire conditions were overwhelming even for an experienced firefighter," Brisley said. "When you're dealing with fire conditions like this, sometimes you can't get here quick enough."