PHOENIX - Authorities are investigating a deadly apartment fire that hospitalized a family and left a 14-year-old dead Sunday morning as a possible murder.
Officer James Holmes, spokesman for the Phoenix Police Department, said officers responded to the Marble Creek Apartments near 59th Avenue and McDowell Road shortly before 1 a.m.
The fire was located on the second floor and contained to one unit, he said.
Police officials said that firefighters located a mother and her four children, ranging in age from 3 months to 14 years old, inside the apartment.
The mother and her children were transported to a local hospital, where the 14-year-old girl was pronounced dead, Holmes said.
The mother is listed in critical condition, according to police. The 3-month-old and 3-year-old are listed in extremely critical, but stable condition.
Police believe the fire may have been intentionally set, said Holmes. He said authorities have a "person of interest" detained, but did not elaborate. The investigation is ongoing.
Nearly 30 other people who live in the building were displaced because of electrical damage and other problems.
The American Red Cross responded and is assisting 17 people affected by the fire, said Trudy Rice, chief communications officer. They are working to assist the families with food, shelter and clothing.
Among them is Jennifer Sheppard, who lives with her four children in a two-bedroom unit below the victims, who lived on the second floor. Sheppard said she is thankful a neighbor knocked on her door, waking up her 14-year-old son.
"I didn't hear anything. I didn't feel anything," Sheppard said.
Sheppard and her kids ran outside barefoot and that's when they saw the magnitude of the fire.
"It just hit me, all that heat toward my face," Sheppard said.
They then watched firefighters carrying the children over their shoulders and place them on the ground to administer CPR.
Sheppard said she didn't know the family well and never saw any domestic violence between the mother and her live-in boyfriend. The kids were usually playing on the balcony if they went outside, she said.
Sheppard said she still can't imagine what the mother must be going through.
"At least we got out safe," Sheppard said.
Hayla Miller, 12, who lives in another part of the complex and was close friends with the 14-year-old, said her friend was nice to everyone and fun to be around.
"She always made me laugh and I made her laugh," Miller said.'
Police said they don't expect to have any additional information until Monday as detectives and arson investigators continue their work.