A horrible tragedy rocked Philadelphia this week when at least a dozen people, including children, were killed in a fire at a rowhouse that had been converted into a pair of apartments.
Reports indicate that at least 12 people, including eight children, died in the inferno, which broke out early Wednesday. Two others were reportedly hospitalized and are in critical condition.
Initial reports said 13 people had died, but that count was later revised, according to Philadelphia’s local NBC affiliate, which noted that the death toll could rise as the investigation continues.
Fire prompts questions
The Washington Examiner reports that authorities are now working to determine how many people were living in the apartments and whether smoke detectors in the units were in working condition.
Officials told NBC Philadelphia that at least 26 people were living in the two apartments, which are owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA).
At least eight individuals who were in the building at the time of the fire were able to escape relatively unharmed, NBC Philadelphia reports.
First responders arrived quickly
According to the Examiner, emergency calls began to come in shortly after 6:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Philadelphia Fire Department was quickly dispatched to the scene.
“Preliminary information indicates companies arrived at 6:40 a.m. and found heavy fire coming from the second floor of a three-story rowhouse. It took 50 minutes to place the fire under control. More to come,” the department said in a tweet after the fire was extinguished.
Some reports suggested the blaze started when a Christmas tree caught fire, but an official cause has not yet been determined, according to the Associated Press.
A true tragedy
A probe of the incident will involve the city’s fire department and fire marshal as well as federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), who were reportedly at the scene in Philadelphia Thursday morning taking pictures and sifting through the charred ruins.
“This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history, the loss of so many people in such a tragic way,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said of the incident.
According to a PHA spokesperson, the two units were last inspected in May 2021, and all of the smoke detectors were reported to have been in proper working order at that time.