13 killed in Philadelphia, house on fire converted to apartment

Thirteen people, including seven children, died Wednesday morning in a fire in a three-story row house in Philadelphia that was converted into two apartments, officials said.

Two other people were injured in the house fire and were sent to hospitals, records show it owned, officials said. philadelphia housing authority, a municipal agency that leases homes to people with limited income.

“This is undoubtedly one of the saddest days in the history of our city – the loss of so many people in such a tragic way,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.

“Losing so many kids is just devastating. … Keep these kids in your prayers,” Kenny said.

869 N., in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood. Firefighters put out the flames at around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday at Row House on 23rd Street.

Live Updates: At least 13 killed in fire at Philadelphia Row home

Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said firefighters found a “massive fire” in a kitchen area facing the second floor, and “nothing was slowing the fire from progressing”.

Thirteen people were killed; two others were taken to hospitals; And eight people went out on their own, Murphy said.

“It was terrible,” Murphy said. “This is probably one of the deadliest fires ever.”

Fire officials said twenty-six people lived in the three-storey building – eight on the first floor and 18 on the second and third floors.

The agency’s senior executive vice president of operations Dinesh Indala said the housing authority was not aware that 26 people were living in the building. He said the agency was probing how many people were allowed to stay there.

Murphy said the cause of the fire would be investigated. The fire department said it took 50 minutes to bring the fire under control.

Neighbor: ‘I can’t wrap myself around it’

Neighbors and others – some crying – gathered outside the charred home as firefighters and police worked at the scene on Wednesday morning, CNN affiliate WPVI reported.

Bill Richards, who said he has lived in the block for 24 years, told WPVI that before he knew about the fire, he heard a woman shout, “Oh my god! Bap re bap!” He then heard the sound of fire engines and went out.

“It’s very disturbing,” Richards told WPVI. “I just can’t wrap myself around it.”

Lindsey Hull told WPVI that she saw stretchers when she arrived at the site at 7 a.m. A friend of hers lives next to the Row House, she said.

“It’s a house that has a lot of kids,” Hull told WPVI. “it’s sad.”

Some smoke detectors weren’t working, officials say

Murphy initially told reporters that there were four smoke detectors in the building, “and none of them operated.”

Murphy later indicated that Philadelphia Housing Authority records showed that at least six battery-operated smoke detectors were installed there from 2019 to 2020.

However, Housing Authority official Indala said the agency had different information about the detectors.

Indala said one of the apartments, “A Unit,” had seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors. He did not specify the year of the inspection, and CNN has requested clarification.

The other apartment, the “B Unit,” had six functional smoke detectors and three functional carbon monoxide detectors, as of its last inspection in May 2021, Indala said.

Indala said two batteries and two smoke detectors were then replaced. According to Indala, the smoke detectors at unit B were also replaced in an inspection in September 2019.

When asked by a reporter why the smoke detectors wouldn’t work if they were inspected in May 2021, Indala replied, “I don’t know if they were replaced or tampered with. …we are currently working with the fire department to conduct further investigations.”

It was not immediately clear which floors covered the A and B units.

Indala said faulty smoke detectors are treated as emergencies and replaced in 24 hours if requested, and the authority conducts inspections annually.

Row house was legally subdivided, city officials say

According to a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Department of Licensing and Inspection, the Row Home has been legally divided into two apartments since the 1950s and there have been no infractions.

Department spokeswoman Karen Gus said the household has had three minor complaints since 2019, all related to garbage maintenance.

One complaint was about dustbins on the exterior of the property in September 2021 and October 2021. There were complaints about garbage and poorly maintained interior surfaces in 2019, Gus said.

According to records, the building was estimated to have been constructed in 1920.

The home is approximately 2.5 miles northwest of Philadelphia’s Center City district.

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