2 questioned in South Chicago fire that killed 4

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Two people were being questioned Wednesday in connection with a South Chicago neighborhood apartment fire that killed four people, including three young sisters.

No charges have been filed in the fire, but it is being investigated as an arson.

The fire killed Kirk Johnson, 56, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office. Three sisters -- Shaniyah Staples, 7; Madison Watson, 4; and Melanie Watson, 3 months; who lived in a top-floor apartment -- were also killed.

On Wednesday, outside the apartment complex near East 81st Street and South Essex Avenue, a memorial was set up for the victims.

Meanwhile investigators found nine locations where accelerants had been used, both inside and outside the building, including at a wooden stairwell.

Sharon Moore, a neighbor, brought her grandson, to the site Wednesday to say a prayer for the victims. Kyran, 7, placed an angel next to the stuffed animals and candles. Moore said the fire hit close to home.

"When I was 15, I was in a fire just like this. We did have two people die in the building, in the courtyard, the same way. I grew up over here all of my life, so it touched me. It's sad," Moore said.

Flames ripped through the three-story brick building early Tuesday morning.

Melanie's father, desperate to save them, grabbed the infant and jumped out of a third-story window. She didn't survive.

"I didn't even know at that time that he had a baby in his arms. I just heard a thud. When I looked, I saw him hit the ground. He was yelling and screaming in pain," said Byron West, who lives nearby.

Melanie's father was transported to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where he was treated for critical burns.

Tuesday night, mourners gathered to remember the three little girls.

"I just hope they're in heaven. I just loved them so much, and they loved me," said Kyra Smith, the girls' mother.

Relatives set up a GoFundMe campaign to help pay for burial services for Shaniyah, Madison and Melanie.

A man living in an adjacent apartment also didn't get out alive. At least three other residents were hurt and dozens have been displaced.

Bill Lynerd, who lives in the building, made it out of his apartment inside the building just in time.

"God was watching over me, making sure that I woke up when smelled the smoke. I think I woke up at least 20 minutes after the fire started, according to the reports I had seen. That was a little frightening," Lynerd said.

The apartment building failed its last inspection back in November. The building is owned by a company in Florida.

City inspectors issued several citations because they couldn't access most of the apartments to check for working smoke detectors. Inspectors also found a porch was defective or missing parts and one stairway needed repairs.
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