A child playing with a lighter near a Christmas tree may have caused this week’s deadly fire at a rowhouse in Philadelphia that killed 12 people, including eight children, according to a search warrant for the property.
The Philadelphia Inquirer cited “sources” in reporting the latest development following the fire early Wednesday morning. A search warrant application filed Wednesday in Common Pleas Court included “information that a child age 5 or under was playing with a lighter and lit the tree on fire,” said Chesley Lightsey, chief of homicide for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
This tragedy is one of the deadliest house fires in the city’s history. Ages of the victims ranged from two to 33, CBS Philadelphia reported.
Firefighters arrived around 6:40 a.m. to the fiery scene in the city’s Fairmount neighborhood and didn’t get the blaze under control until 7:31 a.m. There were 26 people living in two apartments in the building where 13 smoke and six carbon monoxide detectors in total that did not work. The residence, which is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, only had two exits.
“This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history, the loss of so many people in such a tragic way,” Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said.
The official cause of the fire is still being investigated.
“It was terrible, most of, I’ve been around for 30, 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to,” Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said during a press conference.
Dinesh Indala, a senior executive and vice president of operations for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, said despite reports that the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors didn’t work, annual inspections were done where detectors were installed and batteries were replaced.
“Most recent inspection on B unit was May 5, 2021, and at that time, we had six smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors working,” Indala told CBS Philadelphia. “We had to replace two batteries in two smoke detectors, all replaced. On a previous inspection, 9/28/2019, we also had to replace smoke detectors again in the same unit. On A unit, the latest inspection on 4/23 and two smoke detectors were installed and there were seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors present and they were signed by the tenant as a part of the smoke detector response form.”
She added that the housing authority wasn’t aware that 26 people were living in two units but it’s possible that family was visiting.
A GoFundMe was started to help cover funeral expenses. So far, over $83,000 has been donated.