A 12-year-old girl was in critical condition last night after being rescued from her smoke-filled Southeast Washington apartment by a D.C. firefighter who found her hiding in a closet, fire officials reported. They said a 70-year-old woman was also injured in the blaze.

Officials said the girl, Lynn Davis, was in critical condition last night at Children's Hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. Katherine Schools, 70, who also suffered smoke inhalation, was in fair condition at Greater Southeast Community Hospital, a spokeswoman there said.

Fire officials said the blaze began about 8 p.m. in Schools' first-floor apartment at 4324 Halley Ter. SE.

Sgt. Larry O. Buck of Truck Company No. 8, was on his hands and knees during a routine search of the building and found Lynn hiding in the living room closet of her apartment, directly above the apartment where the fire originated, a fire investigator said.

He said the girl had apparently tried to escape through the front door but was driven back by intense heat and smoke in the hallway. She apparently sought refuge in the closet and covered herself with clothes, he said.

When Buck found her, the investigator said, she was unconscious and not breathing. He said Buck carried her from the building to a rescue vehicle, where firefighters restored her breathing before taking her to the hospital.

"Usually, we find kids hiding in their bedroom closets," the investigator said. "I don't know what made [Buck] look in the living room closet, but he definitely saved the girl's life."

Schools apparently was able to leave the building herself, a spokesman said. He said the cause of the fire, which did $20,000 damage, was not known.