Philadelphia fire at 3200 Hartville Street: Sole survivor of Kensington townhouse fire; father, 3 children killed, officials say

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) – A mother who jumped from a fire in a townhouse in the Kensington section of Philadelphia was the only survivor of the blaze that claimed the lives of her husband and three children, aged 12, 8 and 5 years old.

“Right now we’re frustrated and we’re crying, we’re crying with this community with these families,” Philadelphia Fire Marshal Adam Thiel said.

The fire started shortly after 2 a.m. Sunday on the 3200 block of Hartville Street.

Officials said firefighters arrived to find strong flames coming out of the house, but there was not much left once they arrived on the scene.

The commissioner said the first engine arrived within two minutes of the first 911 call, but massive flames were blowing from the first and second floors, making rescue difficult.

“Unfortunately, with fires burning hotter and faster than ever, despite our best efforts, the best efforts of our members, we are tragically and sadly too often too late,” Thiel said.

Officials said a 38-year-old woman survived the blaze by jumping out of a window, but friends said her husband and three children were trapped and killed inside.

Taiana Juarbe, a friend of one of the victims, identified a 12-year-old victim as Yamalier, affectionately known as Gordo.

“He was nice. He was never a troublemaker,” Juarbe said. “He was always protective of his brothers.”

The boy’s father has been identified by friends as Alex.

Principal Charlotte Gillum-Maddox of Lewis Elkin Elementary School in the Philadelphia School District said two of the children attend her school.

One was in third grade and the other in kindergarten.

Gillum-Maddox and several teachers came out to show their support for the family.

“These are our babies, and on a Sunday, we’re here with the family partnering with them to make sure whatever they need, they’ll get it,” Gillum-Maddox said.

Action News spoke to neighbor Angel Rivera who said the father was his best friend.

“I said, ‘Where’s my best friend? Are you kidding? Are you sure he’s over there?’ Because the house was on fire. I couldn’t get in there,” Rivera said.

Rivera said he spoke to the mother before she was taken to hospital. He described his body as badly burned.

Rivera said she told her what her husband told her before she escaped.

“He told her to (get) out of you. Basically jump out the window and I’ll go grab the kids. Those were his last words,” Rivera said of his conversation with the mother.

Rivera was distraught and couldn’t make sense of the tragedy in his neighborhood.

A woman told Action News that her husband is the brother of the man who did not survive. She said her husband was too shaken to speak.

“Life is short, you know, so if you have kids, hug them. Cherish them because you never know,” Rivera said.

Authorities have not officially identified the victims. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire department said the home did not have working smoke detectors.

They encourage anyone who does not have working smoke detectors to call 311. They will come and install them.

The school now partners with the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Prevention Unit to ensure that all of its students take courses in fire prevention and fire safety.

Since January 1 of this year, the Philadelphia Fire Department reports that 312 families have been displaced by the fire, with 21 dead and 38 injured.

“Philadelphia has a fire problem and we need your help because fire is everyone’s fight,” Thiel said.

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