Fire investigators from at least three agencies were looking into the cause of a pre-dawn fire Tuesday which killed six members of a family in a subdivision outside Dixon in Ogle County.
"I was actually in my home getting ready for bed and I heard an explosion," said neighbor Ron Hinterlong. "I came upon the house and it was fully engulfed in flames."
The family's teenage son called 911 just after midnight, saying there was smoke seeping into his basement bedroom.
"He was seeing smoke in the house but he didn't identify what was going on above him," Ogle County Sheriff Brian Van Vickle told NBC 5. "So it might have been going on for some time prior to our arrival."
Firefighters from eight departments arrived to find a roaring blaze, so intense that they could not make entry to attempt a rescue.
"We did arrive on scene to find a fully involved house fire," Fire Chief Sid Aurand told NBC 5, noting that the fire was finally struck at 1:11 a.m. "At that point, we found victims on all levels of the home."
The home burned in a leafy subdivision where other houses sit on large acreages surrounded by towering trees.
"The kids are taking it pretty hard," said neighbor Jaclyn Wooden, who took her children out of school Tuesday. "It's hard when you have a friend you've played with almost on a daily basis, and they're no longer with you."
The sheriff said no working smoke detectors had been found.
"When you have a 911 call from a structure fire we typically hear the smoke detectors in the background," he said. "And that was not the case with this call."
Investigators said at this point the blaze did not appear suspicious, but a formal cause was still being determined.
"We know the kids here," Wooden said. "So it's extremely hard when you see a family, and they're no longer there."