Two children were killed and two other children and an adult were burned yesterday in a fire at their home at 906 Independence Ave. SE, fire and police officials reported.

The two-story shingled dwelling caught fire at about 3:30 p.m. in the second-floor living room and spread throughout the house within minutes according to witnesses. The cause of the fire was under investigation last night.

Police said the identities of two dead children had not been determined last night.

Officials said that two of the five children living in the house, Bernard Mathews, 11, and Ralph Mathews, 5, were taken to Children's Hospital. Bernard was listed in critical condition there last night while Ralph was said to be in fair condition. The fifth child escaped uninjured.

Also rescured from the blaze and taken to the Washington Hospital Center burn unit in critical condition was William Mattingly, 65, the owner of the house. He is a retired Navy Yard employe.

Mattingly and his wife have lived in the house for 30 years, according to neighbor Nathaniel Jones of 905 Independence Ave., and had helped care for five nieces and nephews during the last few years.

Dorothy Mathews, 29, mother of a 3-year-old child, Vicky, said that she and all the children had lived with the Mattinglys for several years.

"My aunt (Dorothy Mattingly) told me that the kids were playing upstairs when the fire started," Mathews, who was not home at the time, said. "We're still not even sure who got out and who didn't. It just jon't know what happened."

"I looked out my window and I could see the fire inside the window," said Dorothy Jones wife of Nathaniel Jones. "I picked up the phone to dial the fire department and before I was through dialing the fire was out the window. The fire department got here right away but it was too late; it went up so quick."

Michael Joshua, who lives around the corner at 140 Kentucky Ave. SE, said he was walking past the house when he say sparks, then smoke, then fire.

"I ran across and went inside but no way I could get upstairs, the fire was already bad up there," he said. "There was an old man on the floor and I helped him get outside but that was all I could do."

The fire spread briefly to 904 Independence Ave. SE, the home of John Walker, but officials said damage there was minimal.