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At least 13 killed, including 7 children, in Philly house fire, officials say

The Philadelphia fire department gathers up equipment at a rowhome. (Alejandro A. Alvarez/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Philadelphia fire officials are still investigating what caused a massive fire Wednesday morning that killed at least 13 people, including seven children.

Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said the fire at this time is “not necessarily considered suspicious.” He said at least 26 people were living in the three-story rowhouse.

Murphy said the number of fatalities is “dynamic” because a rescue effort remains underway. In addition to the fatalities, two people were seriously injured. One was taken to Temple University Hospital and the other to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Mayor Jim Kenney was on scene Wednesday morning and choked up as he spoke during a news conference.

“This is without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history,” he said. “Loss of so many people in such a tragic way. Please keep all these folks, and especially these children, in your prayers. Losing so many kids is just devastating.”

He also confirmed that the building is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and he said the agency inspected the building in 2019 and 2020 and installed working smoke detectors. He said at least four detectors discovered Wednesday were not operating.

Dinesh Indala, executive vice president of housing operations for PHA, said that the last inspection of the building was May 2021.

Murphy said in his 35 years as a firefighter, it was one of the worst fires he’d ever seen.

“Let me be painfully clear,” he said, “that we’re in the process of investigating this to the highest level that we can.”

City Council President Darrell Clarke – who represents the area in Council – was also on scene.

“To say you have a loss of words is an understatement,” Clarke said. “This punches you in the gut. Children. People in the community. It’s just tragic. I don’t know what to say. It’s so sad.”

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