Federal fire investigators on Thursday vowed to spare no effort in investigating a fire that killed 12 people, including eight children, in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood.
Officials from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Philadelphia Fire Department, which are working together to investigate Wednesday’s fatal fire, would not comment on specifics during Thursday afternoon’s press conference, but they indicated a broader investigation. Gave.
“I can tell you this is a resource-intensive investigation. This is an extraordinary time – manpower staffing, equipment, commitment – to get to the root and cause of this tragedy,” said PFD deputy chief Dennis Merrigan.
Due to the “enormity of the scene and the significant loss of life”, the ATF has deployed additional resources – including fire safety engineers, electrical engineers and special agents who are experts in how fires ignite – to help with the investigation. , said Matthew Varisco, special agent in charge of the bureau’s Philadelphia Field Division.
Separately, officials for Philadelphia’s school district confirmed that at least some of the children who died in the fire attended the district’s school. Four adults also died in the fire and the condition of two people, including another child, is said to be critical.
District spokeswoman Monica Lewis said two children were students and three were former students, while the other three attended non-SDP schools. The district will provide counseling and support services to students and staff.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family members, friends and school communities who are grieving this unimaginable loss,” Lewis said.
He said a “Friends and Relatives” center has also been set up at Bache-Martin Elementary School to provide assistance to those affected by the tragedy, as well as to provide information and support for the family and friends of the victims.
In addition, the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia — a nonprofit that works to financially link the private sector to the district — together with Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council President Darrell Clark, have established a fund. And taking donations to support the families affected by the fire.
A fire broke out in the 800 block of North 23rd Street on Wednesday morning on the second floor of a three-story home owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Fire officials said at least 26 people lived in the property, which was split into two apartments.
Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Commissioner Craig Murphy said when firefighters arrived at about 6.40 a.m., the fire was raging from a kitchen area on the second floor and going up an open staircase to the third floor. He said there was little to stop the flames from rising.
“Was absolutely bullshit. I’ve been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the deadliest fires ever,” remarked Murphy. Fires accounted for the sixth deadliest residential fire in the United States since 1980, according to the nonprofit National Fire Protection Association.
A neighbor said that he heard the cries at around 6.30 am and came downstairs to see the house on fire. “It was just such a shocking moment,” he said.
As firefighters brought the flames under control, they found several people dead in the house. According to the city fire department, it took 50 minutes to bring the fire under control.
The PHA said that each family living in the property initially moved in 2011.
Philadelphia is the poorest large city in the country, and housing insecurity is a huge issue for many people. Sharif Street, a Democrat who represents the area, said many of his constituents find shelter with other families so they can meet their needs.
“I knew some of those kids—I used to watch them play on the corner,” said 34-year-old Danny McGuire, tearfully, as he and 35-year-old Martin Berger stood at the entrance of a house around the corner. They had lived there for a decade, she said, “and some of those kids have been here as long as us.”
A child who ran out of the building told investigators that a Christmas tree caught fire before the flames spread inside the duplex, multiple sources told NBC 10.
Firefighters said the house had six working battery-operated smoke detectors, but none were operational at the time of the blaze. PHA President and Chief Operating Officer Calvin A. Jeremiah said in a written statement that all smoke detectors were working properly when the property was last inspected in May last year.
The city’s fire marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were investigating the cause of the fire. Sources said investigators are looking into how the flames spread so rapidly and are trying to ascertain whether the Christmas tree mentioned by the child had started the fire.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Murphy said investigators would make sure the loss of life was “not in vain.”