CHICAGO (CBS) — A mother and her daughter died in an Auburn Gresham neighborhood house fire early Sunday, and the family doesn’t think it was an accident.READ MORE: Chicago Weather: A Few Rain And Snow Showers To Continue
As CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported, the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s office and Chicago Police were brought in Sunday to look for signs of arson.
The fire broke out in a house in the 8600 block of South Hermitage beginning just before 4 a.m.
Late Sunday afternoon, friends and family members tied balloons on the fence outside the scene and later lit candles for a vigil. Dozens offered comfort and prayers to one another amid the crisis.
Most were too grief-stricken to talk, but those that did had questions about the fire – including if it was intentionally set.
As the fire raged, people waved in desperation in the street – catching the attention of first responders. Surveillance video showed those critical early moments of the fire.
As fire trucks arrived, neighbors described the flames the firefighters were about to battle. Those flames spread quickly, with firefighters working to cut out windows and part of the roof to allow heat to escape.
Despite their efforts, it did not allow Ieashia Ford, 34, and her youngest daughter Porche Stinson Ford, to escape with their lives. The family has said Porche was 10, while the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office said she was 15.
“They was joy. They was joyful,” said relative Felicia White. “You know what I’m saying?”
The victims’ families said both died as a result of the blaze. Ieashia was described as a loving mom, while Porche was excited to start in-person learning again Monday at Foster Park Elementary School.
“This is just a sad tragic loss for our family,” White said.READ MORE: COVID-19 In Illinois: State Reports Lowest Average Infection Rate In Two Weeks, But Hospitalizations Still Rising
White described loved ones as being in a state of shock, grief, and suspicion – and added she is concerned the fire was intentionally set.
The state Fire Marshal’s office got help from an 11-year-old Labrador retriever named Zoe and a 3-year-old dog named G.G. The dogs are capable of sniffing for accelerant – substances that could help spread a fire.
Firefighters said such actions are routine for cases like this, including when arson is suspected.
Investigators late Sunday were also looking into whether a domestic situation played a role in the blaze.
“We’re getting bits and pieces. They say it started in the back room where Ieashia stayed at,” White said.
Four other adult relatives, two men and two women, were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and are expected to recover, CFD said.
The Fire Department said Chicago Police have now taken up the case, as the family struggled with the loss and how it could have happened.
“Trying to put it together – I don’t know, trying to put it together,” White said.
Ieashia leaves behind one other daughter, two sons and a grandchild.
Firefighters said they did not hear any smoke detectors when they responded to the home.MORE NEWS: University Of Chicago Resumes In Person Classes After COVID Outbreak
CBS 2 reached out to Chicago Police. They said they are investigating, and said no one had been arrested in the case as of late Sunday night.