updated 10/9/2004 10:54:09 PM ET 2004-10-10T02:54:09

A fast-moving arson fire killed six people in a rowhouse before dawn Saturday, four of them children, police said.

Authorities concluded that the fire was set deliberately after police dogs smelled an accelerant, and have ruled the deaths homicides.

The house in the North Philadelphia neighborhood was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Five of the victims died at the scene. The sixth, a 2-year-old boy, died after being taken to the hospital, officials said.

“The heat was very intense, even for the firefighters trying to make their attempts at rescues,” police Capt. Richard Ross said. “Obviously these people didn’t stand a chance.”

The victims were two adults and four children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, fire officials said.

The cause of the fire had not been determined, and authorities said it would likely take days before they could reach any conclusions.

The fire also spread to adjacent homes, but no other injuries were reported.

Neighbors said one of the women who died worked as a corrections officer and lived in the home with her grandchildren.

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