FAIRMOUNT - Flames tear through a Fairmount duplex killing a dozen people, including eight children. It’s being called one of Philadelphia’s deadliest fires in decades. And, the neighborhood is reeling from the devastation, attempting to make sense from a senseless tragedy.
"I woke up to screams, looked out my windows and saw flames. There was someone yelling for help from the building. There was a woman outside saying she was trying to call 911 and couldn’t get through. I felt totally helpless," one neighbor described the scene.
In one of the deadliest fires in recent history, Philadelphia residents in the Fairmount neighborhood are trying to cope with the death of 12 people, several of those children. Qaadira Purifoy is in shock over losing her sisters, nieces and nephews in the early morning blaze. "I really don’t know. I’m zoned out a little bit here and there, but other than that, you gotta stay strong for the family."
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"I knew one was 16, one was, like, 10 and 7. They’re babies. Babies, man. Young children," another neighbor spoke of the family.
The three-story Philadelphia Housing Authority rowhome, which was two separate living units, was housing some 26 people, according to officials, with only two viable exits available.
Emergency crews responded to North 23rd Street around 6 Wednesday morning, after multiple 911 calls.
Purifoy begging the PHA or anyone at the city to better equip PHA housing with safety devices.
"Make a way to have fire extinguishers. Make sure the alarms are working. Have an exit. Create an exit, make an exit! Give housing ladders…something for people to get out of fires."
Friends and family members gathered nearby, hugging, holding and crying with one another. So many lives lost and so many questions remain.
"I can’t forgive myself. If I was there for them," the second neighbor lamented.
PHA said the family lived at the address since 2011, beginning their time in that home with six people. Their family expanded, but PHA said they did not ask for a larger house.
Neighbors told FOX 29 multiple people were having issues getting through to 911, but Philadelphia Fire officials say crews were on scene within four minutes of calls that did get through.