Undisclosed number of dead in large house fire in Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A large fire ripped through a two-family home early Wednesday in Philadelphia, killing 13 people, including seven children, and sending two people to hospitals, firefighters said. They warned the number could rise as firefighters inspect the townhouse, where officials said 26 people had stayed.

The four smoke detectors in the building, which was public housing, did not appear to have worked, firefighters said.

“I knew some of these kids – I saw them playing around the corner,” said Dannie McGuire, 34, fighting back tears as she and Martin Burgert, 35, stood outside a house door. at the street corner. They had lived there for a decade, she said, “and some of these children have lived here as long as we have.”

“I can’t imagine how more people couldn’t come out – jumping out the window,” she said.

City officials and firefighters did not release the names or ages of those killed in the blaze, which started until 6.30am.

“It was terrible. I’ve been here for 35 years now and it’s probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever seen,” Craig Murphy, Senior Deputy Fire Marshal, told a press conference. near venues later in the morning.

“Losing so many children is just devastating,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “Keep these babies in your prayers. “

Crews responded at around 6:40 a.m. and saw flames erupting from the front windows of the second story of the house, in an area believed to be a kitchen, Murphy said. The odd layout of the house, which had been split into two apartments, made it difficult to navigate, he said, but the crews were able to get it under control in less than an hour.

There were four smoke detectors in the building, Murphy said, none of which appeared to be working. There were 18 people in the upper apartment on the second and third floors, and eight in the lower apartment, which included the first floor and part of the second floor, he said.

The alarms had been inspected annually and at least two had been replaced by 2020, with batteries being replaced in others by that time, officials from the Philadelphia Housing Authority said.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Andrea Duszenczuk, 68, whose family has long owned a house in the neighborhood and who regularly walks her dog in front of the burnt down house. “A lot of these houses have old wiring – this is probably 125 years old. Who knows what’s behind the walls.

TV news footage showed ladders leaning against the smoke-blackened facade of the house, with all of its windows missing. Holes remained in the roof where firefighters had pierced.

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