Two infants died yesterday in a fire that swept through a two-story frame house in Southeast Washington where day care was provided for numerous children, D.C. fire officials reported.

The children, who were found dead in a first-floor living room area of the house at 3219 Ninth Pl. SE, were identified as Steven Williams, aged 5 months, of 3339 10th Pl. SE, and Kimberly Nicolle Williams, 9 months, of 3944 Suitland Rd., Suitland. Authorities were unable last night to identify their parents, and it was not known if the children were related.

Neighbors living along Ninth Place, a narrow street lined with large look-alike frame houses, said they heard an explosion about 11:30 a.m. and noticed flames licking out of windows of the house.

Ralph Hill, 22, said he was watching television in his room on the second floor of his parents' house across an alley when he heard an explosion. He said he could see the flames from his window.

"I ran over there and started breaking windows," he said. "There wasn't much I could do. In about three minutes, the whole house was in flames."

Firefighters quickly brought the fire under control, but not before it gutted the structure. Damage was estimated at more than $60,000.

A fire department spokesman said the fire apparently was caused by a short in a lamp in a rear bedroom of the house where a porch had been converted into an extra room. The fire is still under investigation.

Mildred Mack, 51, who lived in the pink and gray house with her husband, Lawrence, 67, and their several children, grandchildren and a son-in-law, stood in tears on a porch next door to her home.

She said she didn't know how the fire had started and could not say how many children were in the house at the time. She was in the house, she said, and remembered a "little boy went to turn the light out and said, 'Momma, there's a fire back there.'

"I put two children under my arms and after they reached safety went to go back to get some more, when they neighbors wouldn't let me. They wouldn't let me go back and get them," Mack said. "They wouldn't let me.