Girl Dies In Fire At Alton, Illinois House

A house fire Sunday morning in Alton killed a 6-year-old girl and hospitalized her mother.

Leah L.P. Phipps was found on the floor in her upstairs bedroom after a fire ripped through the lower level of the her home at 2627 Sanford St., said Alton Assistant Fire Chief Brad Sweetman.

The Alton Fire Department received a call that the two-story house was in flames at 1:06 a.m. Sunday, and at 1:09 a.m., firefighters were on the scene.

"Upon arrival, firefighters found that the first floor was fully engulfed in flames with the mother on the front lawn, stating her daughter was trapped in her bedroom on the second floor," Sweetman said.

Leah's mother, Tracy Lancaster, 41, had managed to escape the burning building. Lancaster then rushed over to a neighbor's house, where 911 was called.

"By 1:20 a.m. firefighters had found the child and removed her from the home," Sweetman said.

Deborah B. von Nida, an investigator with the Madison County coroner's office, pronounced the girl dead on the scene at 2:32 a.m. Preliminary autopsy reports declared her death was caused by smoke inhalation.

Lancaster was taken to the burn center at St. John's Mercy Medical Center in Creve Coeur, Mo., where she was listed in serious condition.

Sweetman said the Fire Department had the fire under control by 1:30 a.m.

Sweetman said the fire began in the living room on the first floor. It is uncertain how the fire began, but he said the blaze might have been started by a Christmas tree that had lights on it.

He did not know if the home had any smoke detectors.

The Fire Department, the Alton Police Department and the Illinois State Fire Marshal's Office are investigating the cause of the fire.

Also in the metro-east, the Swansea Fire Department was called to a house fire at 200 Gilbert St. at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. No one was injured in the fire.