PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Leaders, including the First Lady, are expressing their condolences and shock after a massive fire broke out in two Philadelphia Housing Authority apartments on Wednesday morning that killed 12 people. Seven of those victims were children.
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In an early morning press conference, Mayor Jim Kenney’s emotional words emphasized the children killed, saying, “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.” I have nothing more to say than please all these people and these children in my prayers.”
“Losing so many children is just devastating. Keep these children in your prayers,” he said.
He followed up the statement with a tweet soon after.
today morning, @PhillyFireDept N. Responded to a fatal house fire on the 800 block of 23rd St. We are devastated by the tragic loss of lives – many of which were children – and my condolences are with the families and loved ones of the victims.
— Jim #VaxUpPhilly Kenny (@PhillyMayor) 5 January 2022
News of the Philadelphia tragedy spread quickly, attracting the attention of the nation’s first lady, Jill Biden.
“My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the victims of the Great Fire in Philadelphia,” Biden tweeted.
My heart goes out to the families and loved ones of the victims of the horrific fire in Philadelphia.
— Jill Biden (@FLOTUS) 5 January 2022
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Other local leaders have continued to issue statements after the massive fire.
State representative Malcolm Kenyatta described the incident as a tragedy, saying his heart was heavy for those who lost their loved ones.
“I’m finding it hard to find the words to express my deep sorrow for the death of at least 13 people, including 7 children, in this morning’s fire in Philadelphia,” said Rep. Kenyatta. “This tragedy, which happened so close to home, in the Fairmount section of town, weighs heavily on my heart, as we mourn those lost and look forward to those in hospital.”
City Council President Darrell Clark issued a statement on the fire, focusing on the “tremendous loss of life” and the heroic work of the Philadelphia Fire Department. She wrote:
“I know that all Philadelphians are with me today in mourning the tremendous loss caused by this morning’s fire at 869 North 23rd Street. We are with family members, friends and neighbors of the six adults and seven children killed in this morning’s fire. We also send our thoughts to the two residents currently hospitalized and pray for their full recovery.
The men and women of the Philadelphia Fire Department responded quickly at 6:38 a.m. and fought valiantly to minimize the loss of life in this fast-moving fire. We thank them for their bravery and recognize the pain they are feeling today. We pledge to support our first responders and members of the Fairmount community as they deal with the trauma of this morning’s events.
We also promise our full support to the Office of the Fire Marshal, the ATF and all agencies that will be part of a thorough investigation into the causes of this tragedy.
Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner joined in the praise of firefighters at the scene. He also demanded a “serious inquiry” into the incident.
“I join the people of Philadelphia today to express my condolences at the tragic loss of life at Fairmount. The death of 13 people, including 7 children, in a home fire is an immeasurable event. We are indebted to the people for conducting a thorough investigation of this tragedy, so that we can make sure it never happens again.
“My thoughts are also with our Philadelphia Fire Department and first responders, who bravely worked to save lives and are likely to be affected forever by today’s tragic events. Like all fires in Philadelphia, the District The Attorney’s Office stands ready to work with our partner agencies in the event of our involvement in any criminal act. To be clear, we are not involved at this time, as this investigation is at a very early stage.
“Housing sustainability and housing health are public safety issues that law enforcement are all too familiar with. The lack of safe, healthy and stable housing is something that is experienced by many victims of crime, and also by many who are criminals. Indulge in acts the same. My office will continue to work with our partners in government to advocate for access to affordable, stable and safe housing for all Philadelphians as it makes our communities safer.”
Calvin Jeremiah, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authorities, issued the following comment on the fire:
“This unimaginable loss of life has shaken us all” PHA, It is too early for us to say anything more. Property was last inspected PHA in May 2021, and all smoke detectors were working properly at that time. The Fire Department, ATF and others are investigating. Any information regarding the cause will come through them. Our primary goal right now is to support our residents in any way they can.”
Editor’s Note: Officials originally reported 13 people were killed in the fire, which has been confirmed to be 12.
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Stay tuned to CBS3 for more on this developing story.