Officials say fire that killed 3 girls, 1 man was arson

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CHICAGO – Chicago police are questioning a person of interest after a fire killed four people, including three young sisters, Tuesday morning.

Officials say the fire at the apartment complex in the city’s  South Chicago neighborhood was set in two places and left residents no way out but their windows.

Firefighters arrived at the apartment complex at 81st and Essex within four minutes of the first call but the fire may have been smoldering for a while because they immediately called for backup and eventually upgraded it to a three alarm.

4-year-old Madison Watson and her 7-year-old sister Shaniya Staples were found dead after the fire was put out in a third floor apartment.  Their sister, 3-month-old Melanie Watson, was in her father’s arms when it’s presumed he jumped out of the apartment window.  The baby died from head trauma and smoke inhalation.  Her father is in the hospital with fire and smoke related injuries.

Officials say the fire was set with an accelerate at two locations, the back door and the stairwell.

Firefighters also rescued people from their windows. The city’s bomb and arson unit is investigating and is calling the fire arson.

Latoya Terry, a resident in the building, says the fire was purposely set by a man who confronted her earlier in the night and said she owed him $10.

“He began to punch and kick at the door,” Terry said. “I went into my room and ignored it because I thought he would just go away. Never did I think he was ever going to set anything on fire.”

Police are talking to a man who used to live down the street with his mother. Now he is reportedly homeless.  Neighbors say he’s often in the area.  His brother says he’s had some issues but wouldn’t have done something like this.  The man has not been charged yet.

No information has been released yet about the fourth person who died other than it is an adult male who is not related to the children.