13 Dead, Including 7 Kids, After Fire Tears Through Overcrowded Philly Row House

Firefighters responded to the three-story row home at 869 North 23rd Street around 6 a.m. Wednesday. When firefighters responded to the scene they found heavy flames coming from the second floor of the home.

“There was nothing slowing that fire down from moving,” Philadelphia Fire Department First Deputy Commissioner Craig Murphy said at a news briefing Wednesday, calling it one of the worst fires he’s ever attended in his 35-year career.

Murphy said at least two others, including a child, were transported to local hospitals, and the death toll remains “dynamic.” A 36-year-old man who was rescued from the blaze was being treated for second-degree burns to his legs and was in serious but stable condition, according to WPIV-TV.

Murphy said the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which owned the building, inspected it and installed at least four battery-operated smoke detectors in 2019. During an inspection in 2020, the agency installed another two detectors, Murphy said, but “none of them operated” during Wednesday’s fire.

Murphy also called the fire one of the worst he’s ever responded to in his 35 years on the job. 

Neighbors tell FOX 29’s Steve Keeley they woke up after 6 a.m. to the sound of screams that sounded as if they were coming from the street and not inside the home. One of the neighbors shared video that appeared to show flames coming from the second floor of the home.  

Other residents who live nearby tell FOX 29 that they would often see children playing outside of the property and that there was a lot of activity around the home. 

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though Deputy Commissioner Murphy said that it is ‘not necessarily’ considered suspicious at this time. The Philadelphia Fire Department and Fire Marshal’s Office are leading the investigation. 

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