A fire in Philadelphia has claimed the lives of thirteen people, including seven children, on Wednesday morning.
The fire took place inside of a Philadelphia Housing Authority three-story row home in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, according to a local Fox news station.
The fire was said to have started at around 6 AM on Wednesday morning. Firefighters rushed to the scene to find “heavy flames” emerging from the second floor of the home. As they were working on putting out the fire, officials discovered multiple fatalities.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority property was split into two units, and officials say that as many as 26 people could have been inside the building at the time. Eight residents were said to have lived in the lower unit, while eighteen people lived inside the upper unit.
Due to the way the building was designed, Deputy Fire Commission Craig Murphy revealed that there were only two potential exits for residents to escape from, which led to concerns that many could have been trapped inside by the flames on the second floor.
13 Individuals, 7 Children, Perish In The Devastating Fire
— Philadelphia Fire (@PhillyFireDept) January 5, 2022
Authorities have been able to confirm that 13 individuals perished in the fire, including seven children. The names and ages of the victims have not yet been disclosed.
Two other victims, including one child, were taken to the hospital in critical condition. According to recent reports, both the individual and the child are now in stable condition. Only eight people were able to safely evacuate the building before it became engulfed in flames.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said that “This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history. The loss of so many people in such a tragic way. I don’t know how much more to say than just, please, keep these folks, and especially these children, in your prayers. Losing so many kids is just devastating.”
Although the ages of the victims haven’t yet been disclosed to the public, Kenney added, “Please keep these babies in your prayers,” leading to concern that some of the deceased might have been infants.
The number of residents inside the building has raised questions about whether it was appropriate to have so many people living together in such a small space.
Mayor Kenney commented on the number of residents inside the three-story building, saying, “You talk about the number of people in the house, you know, sometimes it’s better for people to be indoors or on the street. You don’t know the circumstances of each and every family.”
“Maybe there were relatives or people that needed to be sheltered,” he continued. “Obviously, the tragedy happened and we all mourn for it, but we can’t make a judgment on the number of people living in the house because sometimes people just need to be indoors.”
Officials Discover Four Smoke Detectors; None Of Them Worked
There were no working smoke alarms in a Philadelphia row home fire early this morning that left 13 people dead, including 7 children. In Ontario, it’s the law for all homes to have working smoke alarms on every level & outside all sleeping areas. Working smoke alarms save lives! pic.twitter.com/lkKCMfiRrG
— DR (@Media371) January 5, 2022
More questions are being raised about the property after investigators determined that, although there were four smoke detectors present on the property, none of them were operational. Officials representing the Philadelphia Housing Authority said that they last inspected the property in May 2021 and that all the smoke detectors were functioning at that time. They also added that they had replaced both smoke detectors and their batteries in 2020.
Philadelphia Housing Authority President Kelvin A. Jeremiah commented on the smoke detectors on Wednesday afternoon, saying, “This unimaginable loss of life has shaken all of us at PHA.”
“It is too early for us to say more,” he added.
“The property was last inspected in May 2021, and all the smoke detectors were operating properly at that time,” he continued. “The Fire Department, ATF, and others are handling the investigation. Any information on the cause will come through them. Our primary goal right now is to support our residents in any way we can.”
The cause of the fire is currently being investigated by the Philadelphia Fire Department and the Fire Marshall’s office. However, Commissioner Murphy does “not necessarily” think that the fire is “suspicious” at this time.
Commissioner Murphy called the fire one of the worst that he had ever seen in his 35 years on the job. However, he assured a concerned public that “We plan on making sure that this tremendous loss of life did not happen in vain.”