Seven children and two women who died in a house fire apparently had little warning because a first-floor smoke detector in an empty apartment didn't work, authorities said.

The victims were sleeping on the second floor, said Gregory Joos, Peoria's fire administration manager."By the time they were aware their home was on fire," he said, "the fire had gotten a very good start and their means of getting out of the structure had already been cut off due to the heat and smoke."

Fire swept through the rented, two-story dwelling about 2 a.m. Tuesday, killing nine people and injuring two adults and one child. Three families lived in the house in a working-class section of Peoria, population 130,000.