As it happenedended1641417878

Philadelphia fire - First lady sends condolences as nine children and three adults die in blaze

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 05 January 2022 21:24
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Firefighters respond as blaze rips through Philadelphia row house killing at least 13

At least 12 people are feared dead after a fire ripped through a house in Philadelphia. Two others remain in critical condition.

Nine children are thought to have died, in addition to three adults, and an adult and another child have been taken to hospital.

Firefighters were called to the scene in the Fairmount neighbourhood of the city at 6.38am to battle a heavy fire in a three-story row house. When they arrived at the scene, flames were coming out of the second floor of the building and they worked for 50 minutes to regain control of the blaze.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) owns the home and inspections were carried out in 2019 and 2020 during which six smoke detectors were installed with 10-year batteries. A further inspection was carried out in May 2021.

As many as 26 people were believed to be living at the property which the Deputy Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said was a tremendous number to be living in a duplex.

He added that the fire was “one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to” during his 35 years of service.

First lady Jill Biden is among those to have sent condolences to the families of the victims.

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Fire rips through row home in Fairmount neighbourhood

A fire has ripped through a row home in the Fairmount neighbourhood of Philadelphia. As many as 13 people are known to have died in the blaze, including seven children.

The core of the fire appears to have been on the second floor of the building and it took 50 minutes for firefighters to gain control of the blaze.

A 36-year-old man was taken to hospital with second-degree burns to his legs, according to ABC6. His condition is reportedly serious but stable. At least one other person was also hospitalised.

Eight people are thought to have self-evacuated.

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:08
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Row home converted into apartments

The row home is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority and had been converted into apartments.

Inspections were carried out in 2019 and 2020, but it is not clear if an inspection took place in 2021.

Four smoke detectors with ten-year batteries were installed in 2019, and a further two were added in 2020.

“We’re getting reports that eight people lived in the first-floor unit and this number is very dynamic,” Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said, adding that the first unit also included half the second floor. He went on to say that 18 people lived on the second and third floors of the row house.

“That is a tremendous amount of people to be living in a duplex,” he said.

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:15
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Fire spread quickly up an open staircase

Firefighters were quick to arrive at the scene and found the eight people who had fled the building at 869 N 23rd St. They quickly evacuated two more.

The fire is thought to have engulfed a kitchen area at the front of the second-floor apartment and quickly spread up an open stairwell to the third floor.

“Nothing was slowing that fire down,” said deputy commissioner Murphy.

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:24
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Mayor: ‘Without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history'

Philadelphia’s mayor Jim Kenney and fire officials were visibly emotional when giving an update on the fire this morning.

Mayor Kenney said: “This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history.”

In a separate statement on Twitter, Mr Kenney wrote: “We are devastated by the tragic loss of life–several of whom were children–and my thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims.”

“I want to thank @PhillyFireDept and first responders for their response to this fire, and their ongoing work on the scene. We are investigating this horrific incident, and we will continue to provide updates.”

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:32
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Housing Authority confirms inspections on smoke detectors

CBS Philly reports on the Philadelphia Housing Authority’s response to the incident, quoting Dinesh Indala, a senior executive and vice president of operations for PHA, who says that inspections are annual.

“Most recent inspection on B unit was May 5, 2021, and at that time we had six smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors working,” Mr Indala said.

“We had to replace two batteries in two smoke detectors, all replaced. On a previous inspection, 9/28/2019, we also had to replace smoke detectors again in the same unit. On A unit, the latest inspection on 4/23 and two smoke detectors were installed and there were seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors present and they were signed by the tenant as a part of the smoke detector response form.”

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:37
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Housing Authority unaware of number of occupants

Mr Indala says PHA was not aware that 26 people were living inside the unit.

“We are cooperating with the fire department and everyone else in the investigation right now ... All the family hasn’t been notified yet so we don’t want to comment on who and what. The count for the number of people on that property is too high.”

The PHA does inspections annually and the last was in May 2021. Indala adds that it’s the holidays and it’s unclear if “they have people coming and visiting.”

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:47
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In photos: Fairmount house fire

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney speaks at a news conference near the scene of a deadly row house fire

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 17:51
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Senators Casey and Toomey offer condolences

Pennsylvania senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey have offered their condolences to the families of those who died in the fire.

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 18:05
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Families await news at nearby elementary school

Families of the victims and survivors of the blaze are awaiting news at the nearby Bache-Martin Elementary School on22nd and Sparrish Streets.

Police chaplains and firefighters are offering support.

The Philadelphia Inquirer spoke with Isaiah Brown, 18, whose young cousins were lost in the fire. Mr Bown said he knew most of the victims.

“It’s a total tragedy,” he said. “They used to come over all the time. I feel so bad that that happened.”

Speaking about one cousin, he said: “He was just on the phone telling me what he wanted to be in life. It’s sad that he won’t make it to be that.”

Mr Bown said his cousins were aged two, seven, 10, and 16 years old.

“They’re babies, man. Young children. They didn’t even get to experience life.”

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 18:22
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Officials investigating if Christmas tree may have fueled blaze

NBC 10 Philadelphia reports sources as saying that the investigation into the cause of the blaze and how it spread so quickly may be looking at the role a Christmas tree played.

The city’s fire marshal and the federal ATF were investigating are still searching for a cause for Wednesday’s fire. Sources said investigators are looking at how the fire spread so fast — and the possibility that a Christmas tree went up in flames, fueling the deadly blaze.

Oliver O'Connell5 January 2022 18:36

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