Philadelphia fire: 5-year-old playing with lighters may have started deadly Fairmount fire, subpoena reveals

PHILADELPHIA – Investigators are looking into the possibility that a 5-year-old child was playing with a lighter to light a Christmas tree, causing a fire that killed 12 people in a Philadelphia home, officials revealed Thursday. .

The revelation was included in a search warrant application as city and federal investigators seek to determine the cause of the city’s deadliest fire in more than a century, which claimed the lives of two sisters. , some of their children and others as early as Wednesday.

Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for District Attorney Larry Krasner, confirmed the contents of the search warrant, which was first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fire officials provided some details at an afternoon news conference, declining to say how many people escaped the blaze or speculate on a possible cause, adding to the scene of the incident. Fire is very complex. Officials also did not say where the fire started, calling it part of an investigation.

“I know that we hope to be able to provide the specific origin and cause of this fire and provide some answers to those who need it,” said Matthew Varisco, head of the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. loved one and really for the city. alcohol, tobacco, guns and explosives. ATF experts and other investigators took pictures and delved into the burned three-story brick house.

The building is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency and the state’s largest landlord.

Fourteen people allowed to live in the four-bedroom apartment upstairs have “suffered a tragedy,” while six are renting, said Kelvin Jeremiah, president and chief executive officer of the housing authority. in lower apartments.

When the upstairs family became tenants in 2011, there were six people — a grandmother, three daughters and their two children, Jeremiah said. Over the next decade, he said, the family grew to eight more children.

The PHA “doesn’t fire people because they have kids,” says Jeremiah.

“This is an intact family who have chosen to live together. We are not excluding members of our family … who may not have other suitable housing options,” he said. .

Jeremiah, who sometimes struggles to stay calm, said authorities have reached out to surviving family members from both units to help them.

“All of us at the PHA were concussions,” he said.

The fire department earlier said none of the smoke alarms in the building were working. But housing agency officials said on Thursday the building actually has 13 tamper-proof, 10-year-old detectors in the units, all of which worked during its last inspection in September. 5 year 2021.

The neighborhood was eerily quiet earlier on Thursday, except for a garbage truck rumbling down the street. Very few residents have gone out.

The School District of Philadelphia said counseling and support services are available to students and staff “grieved at this unimaginable loss.” The city’s emergency management office opened a support center for friends and family at an elementary school that one of the victims attended.

Officials said at least two people were hospitalized and several others managed to get out of the building. Officials said Wednesday that 26 people were staying in the two apartments. The city’s fire marshal, Deputy Sheriff Dennis Marrigan, said on Thursday that investigators were trying to determine how many people lived in the building and how many may have just visited. .

He called the building a “very, very sophisticated crime scene. It was a very traumatic and very complicated scene. It was a very complicated investigation.”

Marcia Fudge, secretary of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, expressed condolences on Twitter and said HUD has been in contact with city leaders and is “ready to assist the community in any way we can.” .” HUD investigators were in the city on Thursday, according to Marrigan.

Officials did not release the names or ages of those killed in the fire, which began around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Family members on Facebook have identified two of the victims as sisters Rosalee McDonald, 33, and Virginia Thomas, 30. The brothers both have multiple children, but it’s unclear if they’re all located houses at the time of the fire or how many of them were there. died. Messages were left with several people saying they knew or were related to the victims.

Fire officials initially said 13 people died, including seven children, but the numbers were updated Wednesday night. The victims included eight children and four adults, officials said.

Wednesday’s fire was the deadliest fire at an apartment building in the US since 2017, when 13 people died in an apartment in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, according to data from the Association National Fire Protection. That fire started after a 3-year-old boy played with the stove.

Before that, the deadliest fire in an apartment building was in 1982 in Tennessee. NEPA data shows 16 people died in that fire.

VIDEO: Helicopter 6 scene of deadly fire

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Dais Johnston

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