Seven children are confirmed to be among the 13 reported dead after a massive fire tore through two apartment units in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood on Wednesday morning.
As originally reported by CBS Philly, the two units, which are owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA), were reported ablaze at 6:30 am, with crews getting the fire under control by 7:31 am.
“It was terrible, most of, I’ve been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to,” Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said during a press briefing.
Murphy added that two other victims, including a child, had been transported to a local hospital. The building had been divided into two apartments, with eight tenants reportedly being on the first floor, and 18 people being reported on the second and third floors. Murphy said that the number of deceased was likely “dynamic because there is still an ongoing recovery effort.”
While the cause of the fire remains unknown, Murphy added that during two inspections in 2019 and 2020, the units had four smoke detectors, with two more being added to the building after the last inspection. None of the detectors were found to be operating during the fire.
Dinesh Indala, a senior executive and Vice President of Operations for PHA, told CBS Philly that inspections were performed annually, the most recent having been done on May 5, 2021. Indala said batteries for the smoke detectors had all been replaced and that she was unaware 26 people resided in the units.
“We are cooperating with fire department and everyone else in the investigation right now,” Indala said.
“This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Keeney said at the press conference. “The loss of so many people in such a tragic way, um, I don’t have much more to say than please keep all these folks and especially these children in your prayers. Losing so many kids, it’s just, devastating.”