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By Jeremy Ross and Marissa Parra

CHICAGO (CBS) – A mother and 10-year-old daughter died early Sunday in a house fire in Auburn Gresham, and the family don’t think it was an accident.

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As CBS 2’s Jeremy Ross reported, the Illinois State Fire Marshal’s Office and Chicago Police were brought in on Sunday looking for signs of arson.

The fire started at a house in the 8600 block of South Hermitage just before 4 a.m.

Late Sunday afternoon, friends and family tied balloons to the fence outside the stage and then lit candles for a vigil. Dozens of people comforted and prayed to each other in the midst of the crisis.

Most were too distressed to speak, but those who did had questions about the fire – including whether it had been started on purpose.

As the fire raged, people waved in desperation on the street – drawing the attention of first responders. The surveillance video showed these critical first moments of the fire.

As the fire engines arrived, neighbors described the flames that the firefighters were preparing to fight. These flames spread quickly, with firefighters struggling to cut through windows and part of the roof to allow heat to escape.

Despite their best efforts, this did not allow 32-year-old Ieashia Ford and her youngest daughter Porsha Ford – who was weeks away from her 11th birthday – to escape with their lives.

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“It was joy. They were happy, ”said parent Felicia White. “Do you know what I’m saying?”

Families of the victims said they both died as a result of the blaze. Ieashia has been described as a loving mom, while Porsha was thrilled to start learning in person again on Monday at Foster Park Elementary School.

“It’s just a sad, tragic loss for our family,” White said.

White described her loved ones as being in shock, grief and suspicion – and added that she feared the fire had been intentionally started.

The state fire marshal’s office got help from an 11-year-old Labrador retriever named Zoe and a 3-year-old dog named GG.The dogs are able to sniff an accelerator – substances that could help to spread a fire.

Firefighters said such actions were common for cases like this, including when arson is suspected.

Investigators also looked Sunday evening to see if an indoor situation had played a role in the fire.

“We get pieces and pieces. They say it started in the back room where Ieashia stayed, ”White said.

Four other adult parents, two men and two women, were taken to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn and are expected to recover, CFD said.

The Fire Department said Chicago Police have now taken the matter into their own hands as the family grapple with the loss and how it could have happened.

“Trying to put it together – I don’t know, trying to put it together,” White said.

Ieashia leaves behind another daughter, two sons and a grandchild.

Firefighters said they did not hear any smoke detectors when they entered the house.

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CBS 2 contacted Chicago Police. They said they were investigating and no one was arrested in the case on Sunday evening.


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