At least 20 people died in Christmas weekend fires, including two blazes blamed on faulty Christmas tree wiring.

Among the dead were eight young people in one family who died from toxic fumes when a wood-frame apartment building burned in New Orleans early yesterday, authorities said.

The victims, ranging in age from 1 to 18, were identified as the five children and three grandchildren of Ida Perkins, who escaped with her son Nathan, 17.

"I heard them screaming," said Mildred Coubarous, a resident of a neighboring apartment. "That's all I heard."

Fire superintendent William McCrossen said the bodies were found in three rooms. "Looking at the position on the floor, the girls with their arms around each other were obviously trying to protect each other," he said. "It's a tragic, tragic fire."

In Central Islip, N.Y., a woman, her husband and her 90-year-old mother died when their home was consumed by a fire authorities said appeared to have started near a Christmas tree.

A young woman, her 18-month-old daughter and a house guest were killed in Baltimore early Sunday when fire destroyed a three-story home on the city's east side.

The bodies of three members of a Georgia family were found Sunday after a fire destroyed their rural home near Barnesville late Saturday.

In the Maryland town of Emmitsburg, near the Pennsylvania border, a 4-year-old girl and her parents were killed Saturday, possibly after the girl rushed to warn them about the fire that was consuming their trailer home.