The fire broke out inside an apartment building on East 228th Street just before 12:30 p.m.
When firefighters arrived, they say the father of the three boys was on the fire escape in the front of the building desperately trying to save his boys. He was screaming. The kids were screaming when one man on the sidewalk grabbed a quilt and held it with 5 others so the 7 year old and 6 year old brothers, one at a time, could jump to safety.
"First the little boy jumped. He was okay, and then we moved the other side and held it again. Then the second boy jumped, hit a wire, but then we broke most of his fall," Anthony Long said.
But the 4 year old would not or could not jump. He was scared and trapped, breathing in so much smoke that at some point he turned and collapsed inside.
"The child was on the other side of the fire, so the fire had to be put out before firefighters could get to him from inside," Chief James Leonard said.
The brothers were taken to Jacobi Medical Center where they remained listed in critical condition.
Leonard said investigators are looking into why the father was outside during the fire, and whether the children were left home alone
Fire marshals have determined that the fire was started by one of the kids. The child was playing with a toy near the stove and it caught fire, officials said. It happened in the kitchen of the fourth-floor apartment.