Philadelphia fire: 13 people dead, including 7 children, after duplex fire in Fairmount section – WPVI-TV

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — The Philadelphia Fire Department says seven children are among at least 13 dead after a house fire erupted in the Fairmount section of the city on Wednesday morning.

A fire official said the number of fatalities is “dynamic,” indicating the number of those killed could change as the recovery continues.

“Without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history,” Mayor Jim Kenney said at a news conference. “Losing so many kids is just devastating… Keep these babies in your prayers.”

Officials say 18 people lived in a 2nd-floor apartment of the three-story duplex. Another eight people lived on the first floor.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy noted that 26 was a large number of people to be occupying a duplex, but a spokesperson for Philadelphia’s Department of Licenses and Inspections said the city does not limit the number of family members who can stay in a single unit.

The mayor said people should withhold judgment.

“You don’t know the circumstances of each and every family, and maybe there were relatives and family that needed to be sheltered,” Kenney said. “Obviously the tragedy happened, and we all mourn for it. But we can’t make judgment on the number of people living in the house because sometimes people just need to be indoors.”

The fire broke out around 6:40 a.m. in the 800 block of N. 23rd Street. Firefighters arrived to find heavy flames shooting from the second story of the three-story row house.

The odd configuration of the building – originally a single-family home that had been split into two apartments – made it difficult to navigate, Murphy said.

The fire department said it took about 50 minutes to bring the fire under control. The view from the Action Cam and Chopper 6 showed multiple fire crews on the scene.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. The ATF is responding to the scene to assist the Philly fire and police departments.

There were no working smoke detectors in the home, fire officials said.

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Action News has learned there were seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors in one of the apartments, and six smoke detectors with three carbon monoxide detectors in the other as of the last inspection in the spring of 2021.

It was not known why those smoke detectors didn’t work.

The duplex is a Philadelphia Housing Authority property. In a statement, PHA President and CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah confirmed the property was last inspected in the spring, and all smoke detectors were “operating properly at that time.”

“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,” Jeremiah said.

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Eight people were able to get out of the house, officials said. Two people were taken to the hospital. One went to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and one went to Temple University Hospital.

Neighbor Bill Richards who lived on the block for 24 years says he heard a woman yell, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”

He then heard fire trucks and came outside.

“It’s very upsetting,” Richards said. “I just can’t wrap myself around it.”

Richards spoke about a young man he has watched grow up who lives in the building.

RELATED: Fairmount neighbors shocked, heartbroken after duplex fire kills 13

“It’s a great neighborhood – a varied neighborhood. There are houses that have single families, multi-families, there are apartments, a lot of renters but there are single families. I’ve been here for 24 years. I love the neighborhood,” Richards said.

Lindsay Hull told Action News she came upon the scene at 7 a.m. She saw stretchers.

She said her friend lives in the building next to the rowhome.

“That’s a house that has a lot of kids,” Hull said. “It’s sad.”

VIDEO: Chopper 6 over scene of fatal fire

Mayor Jim Kenney was on location talking to fire crews. Action News reporter Katherine Scott said the mayor slumped when he heard the news.

People could be seen sobbing uncontrollably outside the burned-out home.

Neighbors told Action News they woke up to smell the smoke and could hear the sirens. They looked outside to see the street lined with fire trucks.

A 36-year-old man was taken to the hospital with second-degree burns to his legs. He was reported to be in serious but stable condition.

“You come out. You think it’s not close. You think it’s never as close as it is,” neighbor Michelle said.

She told Action News about another fire that happened before Thanksgiving on the same block.

“Twice,” Michelle said. “It’s horrible.”

First lady Jill Biden, who along with President Joe Biden has deep ties to the Philadelphia area, tweeted, “My heart is with the families and loved ones of the victims of the tragic fire in Philadelphia.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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