Investigators found ‘near certain’ Christmas tree ignited by lighters generated nearby tragic Fairmount Fire – Greeley Tribune

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Investigators are “of course” a Christmas tree ignited by a lighter found nearby caused a tragic fire in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood last week. Twelve people, including eight children, were killed in a fire that broke out in two units of the Philadelphia Housing Authority on the morning of January 5.


Philadelphia Fire Chief Adam Thiel says the initial ignition source has been determined to be a lit Christmas tree after “a thorough investigation of the scene” and based on the testimony of a 5-year-old.

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Investigators, along with the ATF and Fire Marshal, did not find any other source of fire after conducting an extensive search of the site.

The Christmas tree was located in a second-floor unit and Thiel says the 5-year-old was the only survivor who was rescued from the second floor.


“Words of a 5-year-old who is essentially one of the two survivors of this tragedy and is actually the only survivor who, based on our interviews, was located, the only person who was on the second floor. Where the tree and the lighter were located at the time we believe the fire started. We have a 5-year-old, left with the words of that traumatized child, to help us understand how the lighter and the tree came with tragic consequences Because we have refuted any other theories, hypotheses based on the incredible level of expertise we have brought in, including the ATF’s national response team and all other partners who contributed to this investigation,” Thiel said.

Last week CBS3 learned that the fire may have been started by a 5-year-old playing with a lighter near the Christmas tree, but Thiel says you can’t rely on just one child’s testimony.

“We are almost certain that the Christmas tree on the second floor was the object that was ignited first. We are fairly certain that the fire that started the fire was a lighter and how the lighter came into contact with the Christmas tree, you all must have seen and heard the words of a 5-year-old,” Thiel said. “We are left with words. The only survivor who was on the second floor at the time we think the fire started was a 5-year-old. We’re not going to go into the details of the words of a 5-year-old.”


Investigators found nothing to refute the child’s words, but Thiel says this does not prove the child started the fire because “we are talking about the words of a 5-year-old.”

Mayor Jim Kenney said, “Since that fateful day, the entire city has been in mourning and devastated by the deaths of 12 people.”

According to the Medical Examiner’s Office of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, 12 people died in the fire due to smoke. Among the three adults and nine children killed were Decwan Robinson, Destiny McDonald, Janiah Roberts, J’Quan Robinson, Natasha Wayne, Quintian Tate-McDonald, Quinsha White, Rosalie McDonald, Shanice Wayne, Tanisha Robinson, Tiffany Robinson and Virginia Thomas.


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Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said, “On behalf of the entire health department, I would like to express my deepest condolences to those affected by this fire.” “We mourn the loss of each of the young mothers and children, whatever they should have been able to become and experience, and the tremendous loss experienced by their families, their communities, and our city in this terrible tragedy.”

Thiel says the fire is thought to have been incendiary, meaning that officials believe it did not happen accidentally.

“We believe there was some kind of human intervention to get the ignition source to be the first item to ignite,” he said. “Again, you’ve heard me say that it’s based on no certainty, but on the less certain words of a 5-year-old. We don’t have any hypotheses. We really don’t have anything to the contrary What we know for sure is the tree, the next thing we know for sure is definitely lighter and again we are left with the words of this 5-year-old.

The rapidly growing fire erupted from the second floor, consuming the three-storeyed Rohom. Investigators say most of the victims were found in a third-floor bedroom.

Fire officials found that a total of seven smoke detectors were found. Three were found in the kitchen drawer, one in the bedroom drawer, one on the floor and one on the bedroom ceiling.

They all had the 9-volt battery removed and were inactive.

A smoke detector was discovered in the basement and activated, but it was too late to alert the fire victims on the other floors.

Philadelphia fire officials are again reminding people to make sure they have an escape plan in the event of a fire and to make sure they have working smoke detectors.

They say they are continuing to install free smoke detectors across the city. In 2021, he delivered 1,100.

The City of Brotherly Love has come together to help those affected by this tragedy. Click here to learn how you can donate to the victims.

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CBS3’s Natasha Brown and Keri Corrado contributed to this report.

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