PHILADELPHIA - Philadelphia fire officials confirmed Wednesday morning that the Philadelphia Housing Authority rowhome that caught fire, killing 12 people, did not have operational smoke detectors.
The three-story rowhome, which had been converted into a duplex, was equipped with four smoke detectors. Officials say none of the four were operational.
The fire broke out on the second floor of the home around 6:40 a.m., and firefighters arrived to find heavy flames coming from the front of the building.
During the firefight, crews found that there had been multiple fatalities. They later confirmed that 12 people, including eight children, had died in the fire. Two other victims were taken to nearby hospitals in critical but stable condition.
Eight others were able to safely get out of the home on their own.
Following the fire Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy stated that the Philadelphia Housing Authority had inspected the home in 2019 and installed the four smoke detectors at that time. PHA says they replaced two of those detectors during another inspection in 2020.
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Philadelphia Housing Authority officials tell FOX 29 that during the most recent inspection in May of 2021, all of the smoke detectors in the property were found to have been in working order.
Philadelphia Housing Authority President & CEO Kelvin A. Jeremiah released a statement on the fire and smoke detectors on Wednesday afternoon.
"This unimaginable loss of life has shaken all of us at PHA. It is too early for us to say more. The property was last inspected in May 2021, and all the smoke detectors were operating properly at that time. The Fire Department, ATF and others are handling the investigation. Any information on the cause will come through them. Our primary goal right now is to support our residents in any way we can."
An investigation into the cause of the fire and why the smoke detectors did not work is ongoing with the Philadelphia Fire Department and Fire Marshal's Office.
Authorities say 26 people were living inside the property at the time of the fire. When asked if that was an appropriate number for that particular property, they replied that it was not.
"You talk about the number of people in the house, you know, sometimes it's better for people to be indoors or on the street. You don't know the circumstances of each and every family," Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said of the number of people inside the home. "Maybe there were relatives or people that needed to be sheltered. Obviously, the tragedy happened and we all mourn for it, but we can't make judgment on the number of people living in the house because sometimes people just need to be indoors."
Philadelphia residents in need of smoke detectors can request them from the city and the fire department will install them for free. There should be one alarm on each floor of every home, including a basement level.