Four people were killed, including three children, in an extra-alarm fire in a South Chicago apartment complex early Tuesday morning.
3-month-old Melanie Watson, 4-year-old Madison Watson and 7-year-old Shaniyah Staples were killed in the fire, along with an unidentified man, according to family members and the Cook County Medical Examiner's office.
Around 1:40 a.m., approximately 200 firefighters were called to a burning three-story building in the 8100 block of South Essex Avenue, authorities said.
The stairwells were consumed by fire, officials said, forcing several people to exit the 32-unit apartment building through windows. A witness told NBC 5 he had tried to save himself and the 3-month-old by jumping from a third-story window with the baby in his arms.
Crews searched for hours after the blaze was put out for the other three victims who were unaccounted for before they were found dead in two different areas of the building.
The bodies of the two other children were found in one unit, while the adult male was found in another location. One woman on the scene told NBC 5 the children were her nieces who were staying with the 4-year-old’s father in the building when the fire broke out.
"I am just sad that the babies lost their life," said Clayton Turner, who lives across the street.
Chicago Fire officials said they found evidence that leads them to believe someone intentionally set the fire, and a person of interest was taken into custody, according to police.
Resident Latoya Terry says she had an argument with the person she believes set the fire after a squabble over $10.
"I didn't know it would escalate to this," she said.
Three additional adults were taken to area hospitals.
Speckled with pink balloons, a vigil Tuesday night brought together family, neighbors, even strangers, heartbroken over the loss of three sisters.
“I just loved them so much and they loved me,” the girls’ mother, Kyra Smith, said.
Shawn Staples, Shariyah’s father, remembered the girls at the vigil.
“They are looking down on me,” he said. “Down on all of this and see how much love and how much support they had out here.”