Philadelphia fire: Families sue Housing Authority for rowhome fire that killed 12 in Fairmount

A devastating fire claimed the lives of 12 people, including nine children, in Philadelphia last year; and now the victims' families are taking legal action.

The families of five people killed in the Fairmount rowhome fire are suing building owner the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency and the state’s biggest landlord.

"This terrible tragedy resulting in precious loss of life could and should have been avoided… we are now prepared to move forward, seeking not only compensation, but accountability," Tom Kline, of Kline & Specter, announced in a statement Tuesday.

The lawsuit claims the Housing Authority knew the 4-bedroom apartment was overcrowded with 14 people, and that the building had no fire escape or hardwired smoke detectors.

RELATED COVERAGE: Philadelphia fire: Lighter, Christmas tree started fire that killed 12 in Fairmount

Nine children were among the 12 people who died in the January 2022 blaze, which officials later said was caused by a Christmas tree ignited by a lighter.

"We believe with certainty - so 99 to 100% confidence - that the first item ignited in this blaze was a Christmas tree," Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said after an investigation last year. "We believe with near certainty, based on the evidence, the ignition source for this tree was a lighter that was located nearby."

Fourteen people were authorized to live in the four-bedroom upper apartment that "suffered the tragedy," Kelvin Jeremiah, the housing authority's president and CEO, said last year. Six people were on the lease in the lower unit.

Fire officials also previously found seven nonfunctioning smoke alarms in the unit where the deadly fire occurred.

The Philadelphia Housing Authority said Tuesday that they have not received the complaint, and can't comment on pending litigation.