ENGLEWOOD — An 11-month-old girl and a 49-year-old woman were killed Tuesday morning in a fire in an Englewood house that neighbors said served as a daycare center.
According to fire officials, the fire started shortly before 11 a.m. in a single-family home at 6730 S. Emerald Av. Flames quickly spread to two neighboring homes.
Mileyah Denise Johnson, an 11-month-old who lived in the 7200 block of South Peoria Street, was pronounced dead at the morgue at 1:10 p.m. Tuesday, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office.
Geneva White, 49, who lived in the house that caught fire, was pronounced dead at the morgue at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday.
The cause of the fire was still unknown early Wednesday, according to Larry Langford, a fire department spokesman.
Firefighters were expected to return to the street about 10 a.m. Wednesday to hand out "fire safety literature and smoke detectors," Langford said.
On Tuesday, Deputy Chief John McNicholas said firefighters were told someone might be trapped inside the home when they arrived on the scene, but the fire was so intense they couldn't immediately get inside.
According to Donna Mack, who lives on the same block, the home doubles as a neighborhood "day care center" serving up to 11 children at a time. In the past, she has left her own children at the home to be watched.
The address is not listed a licensed daycare center with the Department of Children and Family Services, spokeswoman Karen Hawkins said. People who provide regular childcare for more than three children, including any of their own children under 12 years old, must be licensed.
Neighbor Mack said she heard an explosion and saw smoke as she was leaving the block to go downtown.
"I started calling my neighbors, but unbeknownst to me, their house was on fire," she said.
According to Mack, the block is no stranger to fire, both intentional and accidental. A home adjacent to the three homes burnt in Tuesday's fire was fire-bombed two weeks ago, Mack and other neighbors said.
And in April 2011, Mack told the Tribune of how neighbors banded together after a fire on the same block killed three children. That fire was started when a 4-year-old boy lost control of a lighter he was playing with in his bed.
Firefighters were able to bring Tuesday's fire under control by noon, McNicholas said, but the baby and the woman were still missing.
Fire officials later said the girl was found on the first floor of the burned-out home, while the woman was found on the second floor.
Neighbors said a 40-year-old woman who lives in the home babysits infants in the neighborhood.
Dante Webb, who lives across the street from the home, said he drove up and saw smoke before a woman outside the home told him there were people inside.
"I couldn't get inside. I knocked down the door when she told me a baby was inside. But we couldn't get inside. There was so much smoke," Webb said.
"I got on my hands and knees. I tried. I got as far as I could," he said. "I couldn't see anything — couldn't breathe. I was on my hands and knees.
"I had to get out of there."
Webb said a woman who lives in the house told him she went outside to empty some garbage.
"She turned around, she saw the roof on fire, and that's when she started screaming," Webb said.
According to Assistant Deputy Fire Commissioner Jeffrey Springer, the fire is suspected to have spread from the first floor.
Nothing remains in the home's interior, Springer said. The fire heavily damaged the home as well as the homes immediately north and south of it, one of which was vacant. None of the roughly 100 firefighters who battled the blaze was injured.
McNicholas said there were no reports of people trapped in the other two buildings.