GRANDVIEW, Mo. -- A woman and a baby are dead following a house fire early Monday morning. Investigators on Tuesday said the fire was intentionally set. On Tuesday the woman was identified as 37-year-old Anika M. Hobley of Kansas City, Mo. She is believed to be the child's babysitter. Police have not identified the child.
Firefighters rushed to the 12000 block of Belmont around 2:30 a.m., after two sisters, ages 10 and six, escaped out of a window in the burning house and knocked on a neighbor's door for help. The neighbor, who does not want to be identified, said she went outside to see the girl's father trying to put out the fire with a garden hose.
"When I first came to the door and I saw those girls, I didn't know what to think," the neighbor told FOX 4 News. "I mean I had a thousand and one things going through my head because I'm like, two little girls roaming the street at 2:30 in the morning. The first thing was to call the police. But when I came out and saw the house in flames I automatically knew it was a big issue. Something is not right."
Inside the burning house, firefighters pulled out the girls' sister, a one-year-old baby. She died at the hospital. Rescue workers also found a woman dead in the basement of the home. The neighbor says the girls told her, that woman was their babysitter.
"It's a sad story," the neighbor said. "You know because my son plays with these two little girls all the time. We've been living here for over two years. So have they. It's just sad. My boyfriend helped the father. He was trying his best to get the baby out of the home."
The fire chief says the children's father is at the hospital being treated for multiple burns to his body. The father told the neighbor he had just stepped out of the shower and escaped the fire without wearing any clothes. The children's mother was at work at a nearby hospital at the time of the blaze. She picked up her two surviving children from the neighbor.
Kansas City firefighters were part of a mutual aid response to help find the victims inside the house.
On Monday neighbors mourned for the family. Katelynn Wheat, 11, said she is close friends with the two sisters who survived the fire. She lives a few houses down the street and spends time riding bikes with the little girls.
"Whenever I was starting living here, my mom, we came out and they were outside," Wheat said. "I asked if I could go play with them and they said that I could and we just became friends right from there."
Wheat spent Monday gathering clothes of her own to give to her two friends that are without everything.
"It's sad because I know she's my best friend and she lost one of her siblings," she said.
Wheat's aunt who also lives down the street from the family says she woke up early Monday morning to the sound of sirens.
"They were here almost every day," Angela Perkins said. "It hits way too close to home."
Perkins said she hurts for the family's loss, being a mother herself.
"It makes me want to hold my son way closer and appreciate life way more," she said.
Another neighbor, Louisa Vanhorne, said she didn't want to come home from work Monday because it's heartbreaking to see the burned house.
"I thought it was such a tragedy that life was lost," Vanhorne said. "It's a parent's worst nightmare to wake up and there's fire."
Other neighbors said they were devastated to learn the fire was set intentionally.
“It’s actually kind of scary because I've lived in this neighborhood my whole life and to know that somebody would actually start a house fire knowing kids live there, it’s hard,” said neighbor Sarah Perkins.
On Tuesday, children from the neighborhood hung balloons in the front yard as the house as a way to show support.
“We need to help one another in hard times,” said 10-year-old Samuel Cruz. “Mostly right now, since their sibling died.”
Investigators tell FOX 4 the cause of deaths for the little girl and 37-year-old Anika Hobley are still under investigation.
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