Philadelphia Fire Updates: 5-Year-Old Only Person on Floor When Fire Was Set

Live Updates
  • An investigation is underway into an early morning fire at a Philadelphia apartment building that left 13 people dead, including seven children.
  • Authorities say 26 people were living inside the property at the time of the fire.
  • Fire crews quickly responded to the 800 block of N. 23rd Street around 6:40 a.m. to "heavy fire" coming out of the second floor of a three-story rowhouse, fire officials said.
  • Two others including a child were critically injured and transported to hospitals. At least eight people self-evacuated.
  • Authorities have not identified the eight children and four adults who died
  • Family members say the victims ranged in age from 33-year-old to 1-year-old.

Fire Commissioner shares fire safety tips

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel shared fire safety tips during the press conference Tuesday.

He said "everyone's eyes roll" during fire safety announcements but he encouraged people to pay attention after this incident.

Thiel said people should be careful with real Christmas trees and make sure they are watered regularly. He also said people should "get rid of the tree" sooner rather than later.

He added people should call 9-1-1 "if they have any inkling there is a fire."

"Every second counts," he said and sometimes the fire department won't be alerted even if the smoke alarm sounds.

Thiel said the Fairmont fire was "really fast-moving and difficult."

"Fire conditions were not what you see on television," he said. "There was zero visibility, high heat - and by high heat, I'm talking about 900 to 1,000 degrees at the ceiling, toxic smoke filling the entire building."

City official turns attention to affordable housing, intergenerational housing

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke said officials needs to deal with the "old infrastructure" throughout the city.

Clarke said there needs to be long term solutions to update fire safety measure in old buildings and do more to address the city's lack of affordable housing.

He added that people should not "point fingers" at the family for their intergenerational living situation.

Mayor Jim Kenney said it has long been a custom of immigrant families to have live with multiple extended family members under one roof.

"Relatives take people in, that's what they do," he said. "There should be no judgement."

Kelvin Jeremiah, the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), said his highest priority is to meet the needs of the surviving victims.

Fire classified as 'incendiary'

The fire has been classified as "Incendiary," Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.

This means it was not accidental and there was "some human intervention."

However, Thiel noted that other agencies might classify this fire as accidental because different agencies have different classification of incendiary and accidental.

Thiel says this incident is not 'simple' or 'clear-cut'

Thiel said this is not a "simple, clear-cut" incident or investigation.

He said everyone saw reports that the five-year-old child started the fire but would not confirm that fact.

Thiel said the investigation was an "attempt to disprove the way lighter contacted tree was in hand of five-year-old child."

He said the investigation "could not find anything to disprove" that the child started the fire, but said that does not prove that claim either because "we are talking about a five-year-old child."

Seven mostly 'inoperable' smoke alarms found in apartment

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said there were seven smoke alarms found in the apartment that caught fire.

Four of the alarms were found "inoperable" in drawers, one was on the ceiling with no batteries and one was on the floor with no batteries.

The seventh smoke alarm was in the shared basement but it "activated late."

5-year-old child was only person on second floor when fire began

Commissioner Thiel said a "traumatized" five-year-old child was the only person on the second floor when the fire started.

This child is one of two survivors from the incident, Thiel said.

Christmas tree was first item ignited, Fire Commissioner says

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said the first item ignited in the fire was a Christmas tree.

"With near certainty," Thiel said the ignition source for the tree was a nearby lighter. This came after investigating every other outlet sources, including fire places.

City to provide update on fire investigation

The city of Philadelphia will hold a press conference soon to discuss the investigation into the Fairmount fire that left 13 people dead last week.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will be joined by Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel, ATF Special Agent-In-Charge Mathew Varisco and Philadelphia Housing Authority President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah.

Investigators say fire was caused by child playing with lighter near Christmas tree

In an application for a search warrant to go inside the unit where the fire began, investigators with the district attorney's office revealed they believe a child may have been playing with a lighter near a Christmas tree in one of the units and the tree caught fire.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia Housing Authority Ceo, Kelvin Jeremiah stated, he spoke to surviving families of both units and will do everything to ensure they have what they need including rehousing, which PHA has identified.

Family member of children who died in fire releases photos of them

According to FOX 29 Philadelphia, a family member of the victims who lost their lives released photos of a group of children who were among the deceased.

"They're babies, young children. They didn't even get to experience life," said Isaiah Brown, a cousin who viewed himself as a mentor to one of the boys.

Philadelphia Housing Authority CEO says smoke detectors were fully operational

Philadelphia Housing Authority CEO, Kelvin Jeremiah said the smoke detectors in the homes that were affected by the deadly fire were fully operational at the time of the last inspection.

Jeremiah also stated that the family had signed off on the inspection confirming the validity of the smoke detectors' proper function.

Philadelphia Housing Authority CEO expresses sorrow for those whose lives were lost and affected

During a press conference Thursday, Philadelphia Housing Authority CEO Kelvin Jeremiah expressed deep sorrow over the unimaginable loss of life of those who died in the house fire.

The Housing Authority CEO said, though 18 people were inside Unit B, 14 people were authorized to be there.

However, Jeremiah also stated they are 'not going to be critical' of the families and victims' size in the unit who were affected by the deadly fire.

Philadelphia Housing Authority is holding a press conference to give an update on the deadly fire

The Philadelphia Housing Authority is holding a press briefing at 3:30 p.m. today to address the tragic deadly fire.

Here's how to watch: Live News Stream: Watch FOX 29 News Philadelphia

Ways to donate to those affected by Philadelphia fire

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there are ways to help victims affected by the deadly fire.

Children First, a Philadelphia-based child advocacy nonprofit, has launched a fundraiser to assist those affected, and is "reaching out to the community to find ways" to help. Formerly known as Public Citizens for Children and Youth, the group adds that all donations will go to the family and community affected by the fire.

Before donating to a charity or fundraiser, you can also check out the group on charity rating websites such as Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, and Guidestar, which evaluate nonprofits and recommend credible charitable organizations.

Red Cross opens shelter, assists displaced families

The American Red Cross Southeastern Pennsylvania Region was among several agencies to respond to the scene of the Fairmount fire Wednesday.

Red Cross is now providing emergency assistance for a displaced family of five who lived on the first floor of the apartment building. Additionally, Red Cross is providing support for the family members of the fire victims.

"Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this morning's tragic fire in Fairmount," the tweet reads.

"The Red Cross is on the scene providing care and comfort to this devastated neighborhood. We'll continue to support the affected families and help with the immediate needs of those displaced."

The Salvation Army Philadelphia is also on scene assisting impacted families.

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"Please help us pray for the families affected by this horrific incident in Fairmount," it reads on a Facebook post. "Our staff and volunteers are currently on site providing care and assistance."

Philadelphia Fire Department uses thermal imaging after deadly fire

According to CBS3 Philadelphia, the fire department is conducting thermal imaging to find the placement of the deceased victims inside.

Reports indicate that officials will look at schematics to build a picture of how the fire spread so quickly.

A joint investigation is also being conducted to determine the cause of the deadly fire by Philadelphia Police Homicide Unit, the Philadelphia Fire Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

Video shows raging fire through duplex

Video shows the fire raging through the duplex apartment in Fairmount earlier Tuesday morning.

The uncontrolled flames swept through the second floor of the building before the sun rose this morning.

Child tells investigators Christmas tree fueled fire

The city fire marshal and ATF agents are investigating the cause of Wednesday's deadly fire, including the possibility that a Christmas tree inside sparked the blaze.

A child who lived at the apartment building told investigators a Christmas tree caught fire before she ran out, NBC10 Philadelphia reports.

Earlier Wednesday, fire officials said heavy fire was coming from a kitchen area on the second floor.

Anger, confusion in aftermath of deadly fire

Several family members and friends of the fire victims gathered at a makeshift Red Cross shelter Wednesday afternoon at a nearby school, KYW Newsradio reports.

"It's a whole bunch of emotions, anger, sorrow, confusion, questions," Rabyna Turner told KYW.

"It's just a lot. The minute you think of something another question pops up in your head, or just a visual of what was going on with the children in the house and being trapped with no way out, no help and it was just a blaze."

Family of fire survivors question condition of building

Family members of fire survivors are thankful to be with their loved ones but still have many questions about the building's conditions.

Yvette Woods' two sons, ages seven and 13, escaped the fire with minor injuries. One boy had burns on his arm and the other had burns on his head.

"I just want to know what happened," Woods told KYW Newsradio's John McDevitt.

Woods was out of town and called her cousin Rabyna Turner to rush to the apartment after the fire broke out.

"I'm thankful that my family was able to make it out and make it out with the minor burns that they had," Turner said. "On the other hand it sickens me that all the other kids had to lose their lives."

Turner added that the condition of the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) building was "not what it was supposed to have been."

Emergency officials cover building in tarp after deadly fire

Philadelphia emergency crews covered part of a fire blazed home in tarp after a deadly fire claimed the lives of 13 people.

According to CBS News, the deceased victims were said to still be inside of the homes.

Locals encouraged to check smoke detectors

After fire officials said four smoke detectors in the Fairmount building were not working when it caught fire, people are advised to check smoke detectors.

Local residents should check their detectors and replace units or batteries if needed.

Frank Maule, a fireman in Wilmington, Delaware, said the city has a smoke alarm hotline.

If residents call, the fire department will come install a smoke detector for free.

First Lady Jill Biden, Rep. Kenyatta react to fire, 'this weighs heavy'

First Lady of the United States Jill Biden released a statement following the deadly apartment fire in Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood Wednesday.

"My heart is with the families and loved ones of the victims of the tragic fire in Philadelphia," she tweeted.

Pennsylvania Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta also released a statement.

"I'm having a hard time finding the words to express my deep sorrow for the heartbreaking loss of 13 lives, including 7 kids, in this morning's fire in Fairmount," he tweeted.

''This weighs heavy as we mourn those lost and keep hope for those being treated in the hospital.''

The Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) has been on scene for several hours as the investigation continues.

"An unspeakably tragic day in Fairmount despite a strong response from the PFD," PFD tweeted Wednesday afternoon. "Please keep the community and our members in your thoughts."

Philadelphia Housing Authority addresses apartment fire

The Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA) released a statement following the deadly fire at one of its properties.

"This unimaginable loss of life has shaken all of us at the PHA," President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah said.

The property was last inspected in May 2021 and "all the smoke detectors were operating properly at that time," according to the PHA.

"Our primary goal right now is to support our residents in any way we can," Jeremiah said.

Row home converted into apartments owned by Philadelphia Housing Authority

The apartment building where Wednesday morning's deadly fire occurred was owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), Philadelphia Fire Department 1st Dep. Commissioner Craig Murphy said during a news conference.

"There was an inspection done by the PHA in 2019," he said.

"When they went out in 2019, they installed four smoke detectors. There was another inspection in 2020, that time they installed 2 smoke detectors."

At the time of Wednesday's press conference, Murphy said there were four smoke detectors in the building and none of them were operating.

The property, built in 1920, was previously a three-story home that was converted into apartments, according to Redfin.

Newsweek reached out to the PHA for comment but has not yet heard back.

Philadelphia Mayor emotional after a deadly fire that claimed the lives of many

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Keeney was seen visibly emotional after a large apartment fire in Philadelphia early Wednesday that killed 13 people, including seven children, and sent two people to hospitals, fire officials said.

"This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city's history," Mayor Kenney said.

'This punches you in the gut,' Philadelphia city leaders react to deadly fire

Philadelphia city leaders are involved in the investigation into the deadly fire, saying they are shocked by the tragic loss of life.

"To say you have a loss of words is an understatement," Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke Clarke said during a news conference Wednesday.

"This punches you in the gut. Children. People in the community. It's just tragic. I don't know what to say. It's so sad."

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Tenney echoed similar sentiments saying, "Losing so many kids is just devastating."

He later posted an update thanking firefighters and first responders for their efforts on scene.

"My thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims. We are investigating this horrific incident, and we will continue to provide updates."

Neighbor shares video of apartment fire

A neighbor who lives across the street from the apartment building that caught fire recorded a video of the flames early Tuesday morning.

The video shows the flames engulfing the second floor of the duplex as fire crews arrived on the scene.

The man told WTXF-TV reporter Steve Keeley he woke up to "blood curdling screams" at 6 a.m.

Neighbor calls fire his 'worst nightmare'

A neighbor who lives near the duplex that caught fire said the incident is "very upsetting."

"I've been here for 24 years, and you know, it's your worst nightmare," the man told local CBS affiliate KYW-TV.

The man said he knew someone who lived in the building.

"I watched him grow up, he lived there for a long time," he said. "I hope he's not one of them [the victims].

Recovery efforts ongoing inside apartment building

Recovery efforts are ongoing following the deadly early morning fire inside a Philadelphia apartment building.

"I've been around 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to," Philadelphia Fire Department 1st Dep. Commissioner Craig Murphy said during Wednesday's press conference.

Murphy said firefighters were able to respond to the scene in two minutes and begin an aggressive attack, but the loss was devastating.

Multiple agencies remain on scene conducting a thorough investigation.

The Philadelphia Fire Department says it will provide another update "soon."

7 children dead in apartment fire

Fire officials said seven children died in the fire. The ages of the children are unknown.

The total death toll at this time remains at 13.

The fire official said the investigation is dynamic and ongoing. All partner agencies are working on the investigation.

"I don't have the words right now for how we are feeling...as a city and as a department," he said.

He said eight people in the building self-evacuated and two victims, including one child, were transported to local hospitals.

'None' of the smoke detectors were operational

Philadelphia Fire Department 1st Dep. Commissioner Craig Murphy said there were four smoke detectors in the building and none of them operated.

They were battery-operated, Murphy said during the news conference Wednesday. The last fire inspection conducted was in 2020.

He said 18 people lived on the second and third floors, 26 lived in the building.

Murphy said there were only two exits, the front and rear, because of the "odd configuration" of the house.

Mayor asks for prayers for the victims

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney asked everyone to pray for the victims and their families.

Kenney indicated many of the victims are children.

"Please keep these babies in your prayers," he said during a press briefing.

Kenney called this one of the "most tragic days in our city history."

Press conference set to begin in moments

The Philadelphia Fire Department says the press conference is set to begin at 10:45 AM ET. near the scene of the deadly apartment fire.

Investigation into cause of deadly Philadelphia apartment fire underway

Dozens of Philadelphia firefighters are on scene of the deadly blaze Wednesday morning. It took nearly one hour to contain the fire, investigators are now looking into the cause.

FOX29 Philly reports several Philadelphia city officials including Mayor Jim Kenney, Philadelphia Police and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) officials are on scene ahead of a press conference being staged now.

News conference from local officials expected soon

Emergency and city officials will hold a news conference soon after an apartment fire killed at least 13 people.

The conference will be livestreamed on local news channels.

Emergency crews are on the scene, several kids among victims

Fire and police crews are on the scene after a fire broke out in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia early Tuesday morning.

According to local reports, 13 people were found dead. WTXF-TV's Steve Keeley reported "several kids are among victims." Two victims, one child and one adult, are in critical but stable condition at a local hospital, officials told Keeley.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also arrived moments ago to survey the scene and get briefed from officials.