PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Eight children are among 12 people killed in a fire that broke out at two apartment units owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority on Wednesday morning in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood. The Philadelphia Fire Department arrived at the building on the 800 block of North 23rd Street just after 6:30 a.m. in massive flames
Officials have confirmed that four adults and eight teenagers were killed in the massive fire. The age of the victims is between 2 and 33 years.
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“It was terrifying, mostly, I’ve been around 30, 35 years now and it’s probably the deadliest fire ever,” Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said during a press conference.
— Matt Petrillo (@MattPetrillo) 5 January 2022
Murphy says the number of victims is “dynamic as recovery efforts are still ongoing.”
Eight people evacuated the building and two more people were taken to the CHOP and Temple University Hospital.
“We are getting several calls, insiders informed,” the dispatch was heard on audio.
Dispatch audio and cellphone video takes you through the moments when the row went up in flames in the house. The multi-unit was home to at least 26 people.
“We got a massive fire in the second floor, heavy smoke on the third floor, got ready for rescue,” was heard on the dispatch audio.
As soon as they arrived, the firefighters attacked the fire aggressively.
Fire officials say that a massive fire broke out in the kitchen area of the second floor.
The workers brought the fire under control by 7:31 am
Murphy says the building was split into two apartments. The first floor unit reportedly had eight people and the second and third floor units housed 18 people.
A “strange layout” was described in the multi-unit building, possibly preventing a safe escape.
“Besides the front door and rear entrance, due to the odd configuration of the house, I’m aware of only two exits,” Murphy said.
Officials said licenses and inspections would determine whether it was okay for that many people to live inside each unit.
The home is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. According to the PHA, Unit A has seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors and Unit B has six smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors. This leaves a total of 13 smoke and six carbon monoxide detectors in the building that do not work. ,
Dinesh Indala, senior executive and vice president of operations, PHA, says the inspections are carried out annually.
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“The most recent inspection on the B unit was May 5, 2021, and at that time, we had six smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors working,” Indala said. “We had to replace two batteries in two smoke detectors, all replaced. Last inspection, on 9/28/2019, we had to replace the smoke detectors again in the same unit. On Unit A, the latest inspection and two smoke detectors were installed on 4/23 and there were seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors present and signed by the tenant as part of the Smoke Detector Response Form.
Indala says that the PHA was not aware that 26 people were living inside the unit.
“No, we weren’t,” said Indala. “We are cooperating with the fire department and everyone else in the investigation right now. This is L&I stuff. The whole family is yet to be informed so we don’t want to comment on who and what. There are a lot of people on that property.”
The PHA conducts inspections annually and the last was in May 2021. Indala says it’s the holidays and it’s not clear if “they have people coming and going.”
Murphy says the fire is not considered suspicious at this time, but the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Office of the Fire Marshal is leading the investigation into the loss of life.
As the investigation continues, an emotional Mayor Jim Kenney asks the public to reserve judgment as the city mourns an unspeakable tragedy.
“This is undoubtedly one of the saddest days in our city,” Kenny said.
The devastating fire is being thoroughly investigated by several agencies. The deputy commissioner of the fire department said it was one of the worst fires in his career spanning over 30 years.
“While working with the Fire Marshal’s office, we plan and intend to determine the cause of the fire, making sure this tremendous loss of life is not wasted,” Murphy said. said.
ATF agents also reached the spot and helped.
— ATF Philadelphia (@ATFPPhiladelphia) 5 January 2022
The Red Cross says it is providing emergency assistance for five families displaced from the first floor.
UPDATE: The Red Cross is providing emergency assistance for a family of 5 displaced by the first floor of this morning’s tragic Fairmount fire. Our teams are also providing continuous support to the families of those who lost their lives.
— Red Cross Southeastern PA (@RedCrossPhilly) 5 January 2022
There are reports that this fire may have started from the Christmas tree. However, investigators are still going through the evidence and have not released an official reason.
a gofundme Has been started to help cover the funeral expenses of the victims.
CBS3’s Matt Petrillo, Joe Holden, Alessia Reid and Jasmine Payout contributed to this report.
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