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2022 Philadelphia apartment fire
|Date||January 5, 2022|
|Time||c. 6:40 a.m. EST (UTC−05)|
|Location||Fairmount, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
On the morning of January 5, 2022, a fire tore through a row house converted into apartments in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Twelve people died, nine of them children, and two others were injured. Five additional people escaped from the first floor unit with minor injuries. The fire happened just four days before the 2022 Bronx apartment fire, also in the Northeastern United States.
The building was a three-story rowhouse that had been split into two apartments and operated by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. It had one fire extinguisher in a shared entryway on the first floor; however as neither the city's building codes nor PHA policy require additional measures for rental units that size, there were initially no other safety measures. The building had no additional fire extinguishers, sprinklers, fire escapes, or tamper proof smoke detectors provided in the rentals. PHA had installed four smoke detectors in each rental unit of the duplex in 2019 and an additional two in 2020. The units were inspected by the PHA separately in April and May 2021 and both were found to have working smoke detectors at that time.
There were at least twenty-six people living in the duplex with eighteen living in the front section of the second floor and the entire third floor. Eight others lived in the first floor and rear half of the second floor.
The fire began around 6:30 am EST on the second floor of the duplex, and neighbors claimed to hear screams around 6:30 am. Fire fighters found a heavy fire coming from the kitchen area and heading up the staircase to the third floor. Firefighters and investigators believe that the fire began at a Christmas tree in the southwest corner of the second floor unit, near the open stairwell to the third story. Of the smoke alarms in the unit when the fire started, none were operational. Five had been disabled and placed in drawers or on the floor, and one was still installed on the ceiling but the battery had been removed.
Of the fourteen people occupying the unit at the time only two were rescued. A 5-year-old child was found on the second floor and an adult was able to escape out a window, with both classified as critically injured and hospitalized. The child later told investigators at the hospital, that he had been playing with an orange cigarette lighter and accidentally set the tree on fire. A lighter was found near the tree after the fire had been extinguished and no other potential ignition sources was found during the preliminary investigation.
Of the occupants of the second and third floor rental, twelve people were killed; three adults and nine children. All of the deceased were members of the same family and all lived in the same unit. A relative told reporters that in the fire she had lost her three daughters aged between 33 and 18-years-old and nine grandchildren aged 16 to 4-years-old. City officials did not announce any of the victims' ages or names initially, but later confirmed the adults and children's ages and identities.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced on January 6, that they were mobilizing their National Response Team to help with the investigation due to the magnitude of the fire to help the city's fire marshal and police department.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a 5-year-old boy who escaped the fire stated to investigators that the blaze started after he accidentally lit a Christmas tree on fire while playing with a lighter. The Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel told reporters on January 11, that the commission believed with a "99 to 100% confidence" that the fire was caused by a Christmas tree in the second floor unit, but could not definitively say who started the fire.
PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah spoke out in support of the family who lived in the second and third floor unit and called for others to suspend their judgement of the family and other PHA tenants. Jeremiah highlighted that it was not PHA policy to evict families that grew in size and the lease had been updated to show the increase in family members over the years. He also took the time to highlight the need for funding to increase additional fire safety improvements in the older PHA homes and the improvements seen in newer buildings.
- El-Bawab, Nadine (January 5, 2022). "At least 13 dead in Philadelphia row house fire, including several children". ABC News. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
- Morris, Sam (January 10, 2022). "What we know so far about the deadly Fairmount fire". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
- Romine, Taylor; Murphy, Paul P.; Hanna, Jason (January 5, 2022). "13 dead, including 7 children, in Philadelphia fire at house converted into apartments, officials say". CNN. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
- Miller, Ryan W.; Williams, Damon C.; McGinnis, James (January 5, 2022). "'Tremendous loss of life': At least 13 dead, including 7 children, in Philadelphia apartment fire, official says". USA Today. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
- Orso, Ryan W. Briggs , Sean Collins Walsh and Anna (January 7, 2022). "Apartment where 12 people died in fire did not have extinguisher, records show". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
- Schmidt, Sophia; Pulcinella, Maria (January 6, 2022). "Fairmount house that caught fire lacked safety fixes found in newer PHA properties". WHYY. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
- Thornton, Ryan W. Miller, James McGinnis, Damon C. Williams and Claire. "'This horrific time': Family waits for answers, mourns victims of deadly Philadelphia fire". USA TODAY. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
- Stamm, Dan (January 6, 2022). "8 Kids Among 12 Dead in Philly Fire; Christmas Tree Investigated in Blaze". WCAU. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
- "In 90 Seconds, Philly Fire Became 'Untenable And Deadly': Investigators". Philadelphia, PA Patch. January 11, 2022. Retrieved January 11, 2022.
- Deliso, Meredith (January 11, 2022). "Cause of deadly Philadelphia fire likely Christmas tree lit with lighter: Fire chief". ABC News. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
- "Philadelphia Officials Urging Residents To Ensure Smoke Detectors Work In Wake Of Tragic Fairmount Fire". philadelphia.cbslocal.com. January 12, 2022. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
- Orso, Anna; Palmer, Chris (January 11, 2022). "Fairmount fire that killed 12 likely began when a 5-year-old boy lit a Christmas tree, officials say". www.inquirer.com. Retrieved January 18, 2022.
- Pulcinella, Maria (January 11, 2022). "Fairmount rowhouse fire that killed 12 began when a Christmas tree ignited". WHYY. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
- Dean, Juliana Feliciano Reyes, Kristen A. Graham, Ellie Rushing and Mensah M. (January 8, 2022). "Mourners remember teenagers killed in Fairmount fire". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
- A 5-year-old told Fairmount fire investigators a Christmas tree ignited as he played with a lighter, Philadelphia Inquirer, January 6, 2022
- Romine, Taylor (January 12, 2022). "Fatal Philadelphia fire likely started with a lighter igniting a Christmas tree, fire commissioner says". CNN. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
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