CAHOKIA, Ill.-- An early morning fire gutted a ranch-style home in Cahokia early Friday, killing a mother and her three children, authorities said.
The woman, Yuasheika Douglas, was 32 years old, according to the St. Clair Coroner's office. Her children were identified as daughters Tamadja Morgan, 11 and Takiyah Morgan, 10, and son Tyrique Morgan, 9.
Neighbor Fletcher Richardson said before firefighters arrived after midnight, the mother's boyfriend was in the front yard, repeatedly screaming: "My family, my family!" The boyfriend was unable to get into the house because the flames were so hot, and authorities had to hold him back to keep him from running into the burning home.
Lt. Dave Lanman of the Cahokia Fire Department said they received a call at 12:19 a.m., and that by the time firefighters arrived, the house, located at 25 Leonard Drive, was fully engulfed in flames.
Neighboring fire departments assisted in fighting the blaze. At 9 a.m. Friday, investigators with the federal Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the state fire marshal's office were on the scene.
A cause of the blaze was not immediately known, but Lanman said he believes it started on the inside of the house.
Neighbors described Douglas as a nice, hard-working person. She worked as a nurse while raising three children and attending school.
One of Douglas's friends, Tomicia Taylor, 29, described her as a dynamo.
"She was a warrior, so strong. She fought for her kids," Taylor said.
Taylor also said the children were fun-loving and cheerful. Tamadja was a sixth grader at Wilson Middle School, Takiyah was in fourth grade at Morris Elementary and Tyrique was in second grade at Centreville Elementary.
Richardson said he could feel the fire's heat from his home across the street.
"The flames were just high," Richardson said. "You could feel the flames way over here."
The fire ate half of the roof and melted the awnings in the front of the house, leaving mostly a charred shell. Yellow police tape surrounded the home, which sat on a small street lined with other ranch-style houses.
Fire marshals were still investigating the scene several hours later.
"It was just tragic last night," Richardson said.
Republished with permission of Belleville News-Democrat.