"They were good people, common people. They took care of their business, minded their business," said neighbor Steve Armstrong, 39. "The whole family, gone. Generations, gone."
The house, in a working-class neighborhood of well-maintained homes, had one smoke detector and it worked, Fire Department Capt. Mike Markowski said. The victims were all found on the first floor.
The house had been fitted with steel doors on the front and side and the windows had steel bars on them. The basement windows had been filled in with glass bricks.
The neighborhood is in contrast to the decay on streets just a few blocks away.
"We've been having a rash of robberies and break-ins," said Easter Smith, who lives near the victims and went to the home after hearing about the fire.
The steel front door had been knocked down, but otherwise, the two-story, orange brick home showed little external damage.
A hospital spokeswoman Cheryl Angelelli said two boys and girl died in the emergency room at Grace Hospital. The adults were taken to Henry Ford Hospital.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Gregory Love told a television station that the fire originated in the basement, where the children may have been sleeping.
The victims are: Bernice Maurant, 65; Christine Maurant, 50; Monique Anderson, 23; and Anderson's three children, Michael, 6, Shelley, 2, and Daniel, 9.
A charred electric space heater was removed from the basement, but investigators don't know if that's what caused the blaze. They said they hoped to have a tentative cause later Thursday.