Philadelphia (CBS) — This comes a day after a deadly fire killed a dozen people, and is still an active scene in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood. Chesley Lightsey, supervisor of the murder and fatal shooting in the DA’s office, told Eyewitness News that she believed a child may have been playing with a lighter in a unit near the Christmas tree and the tree caught fire. These details came up in the application for a search warrant to go inside the unit where the fire broke out.
For now, the investigation is led by the Office of the Fire Marshal, but involves the support of several local and federal agencies.
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Given the magnitude of this massive fire, the Fire Marshal’s office requested additional resources.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives called on its national response team to join the investigation. The ATF’s national response team has state-of-the-art equipment manned by personnel who specialize in fire origination.
Also involved in this joint investigation into the converted apartment building located on the 800 block of North 23rd Street where at least 26 people were living is the Philadelphia Police Department and the Philadelphia Housing Authority.
Eight residents managed to escape, but at least a dozen people, including eight children, lost their lives.
As the investigation continues, relatives and residents gathered at a vigil outside Bache-Martin Elementary School to remember the 12 people killed in the house fire on Thursday night.
“To be amazed. Because I had no idea it would actually be her,” said a young girl.
Sadness among even the youngest of Philadelphians.
The girl said, “Shanise used to be my friend.”
“Our family would like to thank everyone for their kindness, generosity and prayers during this terrible time,” said family spokesman Andrea Underwood.
Read more: Philadelphia Second Alarm Supports Firefighters Physically, Mentally After the Fairmount Fire Kills
The president of the Philadelphia Housing Authority was at the scene Thursday afternoon to talk with City Council President Darrell Clark and Congressman Dwight Evans about the PHA’s investigation into the deadly fire.
PHA President and CEO Calvin Jeremiah says fire alarms and carbon monoxide detectors were fully operational after inspections in April and May last year.
He says that there were three generations in the house as the family grew over time, and called the notion of removing them absurd and against policy.
There were 20 people on the lease, six for the first floor and 14 for the upper unit. There were 26 people inside when the fire broke out. CBS3 learned that the victims included four women, five girls and three boys between the ages of two and 34.
The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office of Supervisor for Homicides and Non-Fault Shootings says a 5-year-old claimed to have played with a lighter and then set a Christmas tree on fire.
The 5-year-old was one of the eight people who managed to escape.
Lightsey confirmed that a warrant had been filed in Common Pleas Court seeking permission from murder investigators to search the units damaged by the fire. CBS3 has been told that an application for a search warrant is only a legal formality.
In the meantime, Jeremiah says he has spoken to the surviving families of both units and will do everything they can to make sure they have everything they need, including rehabilitation, which the PHA has identified.
Officials say the investigation could take weeks.
Meanwhile, Lightsey says that Pennsylvania state law does not allow individuals under the age of 10 to face criminal charges.
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CBS3’s Alessia Reid and Jasmine Payout contributed to this report.