Weather Updates

Fatal Englewood fire began in basement

Mi'Leyah Denise Johnson

Mi'Leyah Denise Johnson

storyidforme: 56488450
tmspicid: 20664964
fileheaderid: 9617229
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: October 16, 2013 11:17AM

A fire that killed an 11-month-old baby and a woman in Englewood Tuesday began in the basement and might have been caused by an electrical problem, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire is not considered suspicious, Fire Media Affairs Director Larry Langford said.

The fire started around 10:30 a.m. and quickly spread to two other homes on the 6700 block of South Emerald, one of which was vacant.

Killed in the blaze were 11-month-old Mi’Leyah Denise Johnson, of the 7200 block of South Peoria, and Geneva White, 49, according to the Medical Examiner’s office.

The fire burned for “some time” before burning through the kitchen floor and spread through the home, Langford said.

“If there had been a working smoke detector in the building, it would have tripped long before the fire spread to the upper floors,” Langford said Wednesday morning.

A neighbor noticed the house on fire and kicked in the front door. Moments earlier a woman who owns the home told Webb she’d been baby-sitting an 11-month-old girl who was still inside.

“I got low because the smoke was coming out,” said neighbor Dant’e Webb, who began yelling to see if anyone was home. “I basically made it as far as I could before it got too bad for me.”

Police arrived and yelled for Webb to get out.

“I was leaving out when the ceiling fell in,” he said..

“It was obvious from the intensity of the fire when crews arrived that it would be next to impossible for anyone to have survived,” Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said. Flames intensified so much that firefighters could not enter the house.

“It was like hell, fire was blowing out the windows on every floor,” said a veteran firefighter at the scene.

Webb said he wasn’t the only person to try to attempt to rescue the infant: “Some other guys broke the front window and were feeling on the couch for the baby, because that’s where the owner said it was, but it ended up being a different couch.”

The three house fires were extinguished by noon.

Once inside, firefighters found the infant on the first floor and the woman on the second floor, Langford said.

Family members, including the baby’s mother, who was on the scene for much of the day, provided few details.

© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit To order a reprint of this article, click here.