Baby, Woman Die After Fire Damages 3 Englewood Homes

Fire was reported shortly before 11 a.m. on the 6700 block of South Emerald Avenue

An 11-month-old baby girl and a 49-year-old woman died after a large fire in Chicago's south side Englewood neighborhood heavily damaged three homes.

Several people escaped the Tuesday morning fire on the 6700 block of South Emerald Avenue, but a fire official said two others, an adult and an infant, didn't get out. Crews later found the body of 11-month-old Mileyah Denise Johnson on the first floor and the body of her aunt, Geneva White, on the second.

Witness Gary Maholmes was among the first of those in the neighborhood who tried to do a frantic search for the baby.

"I just seen the smoke out here and a lady screaming that a baby was on the inside, so I just ran through and tried to kick in the door and the windows to try to get in there but I couldn't [because the smoke was too thick]," said Mahone.

Deputy Fire Commissioner John McNicholas said the fire started in one home shortly before 11 a.m. and spread to two other homes to the north and south. While firefighters were searching the home to the south, an "air horn" sounded to instruct them to immediately evacuate the structure because of dangerous conditions.

"Fire had gotten up into the attic area. We weren't able to ventilate it in enough time. Conditions became very dangerous for our guys. There was a potential there for a backdraft. We pulled them out of the building," McNicholas said.

From NBC Chicago's helicopter, firefighters could be using several jets of water to fight the fire. All three of the homes, which McNicholas described as two-and-a-half story buildings, sustained extensive damage.

An exact cause was still under investigation Wednesday, but preliminary information indicated it was started by an electrical problem. Officials said the fire started in the basement of the home and burned for 15 to 20 minutes before destroying the floor joists and racing up the walls and reaching the second floor.

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