At least 13 people dead in Fairmount fire

January 5, 2022
Bystanders watch as the Philadelphia fire department works at the scene of a deadly row house fire in Philadelphia on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. Firefighters and police responded to the fatal fire at a three-story rowhouse in the city's Fairmount neighborhood around 6:40 a.m. and found flames coming from the second-floor windows, fire officials said.


At least 13 people in Philadelphia were killed in an apartment building fire Wednesday morning in what city officials called a “tremendous loss of life.”

Seven children were among those killed in the blaze, Philadelphia Fire Department First Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said during a news conference. Eight people were able to evacuate the building, and two people were transported to a hospital, Murphy added.

The building was a Philadelphia Housing Authority property, and the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Murphy said. The fire occurred on North 23rd Street, according to the Philadelphia Fire Department. The building was a house that had been converted into two apartments, Officer Miguel Torres with the Philadelphia Police Department told USA TODAY.

Firefighters responded to the fire at around 6:40 a.m. and found “heavy fire” on the second story of a three-floor rowhouse, the Philadelphia Fire Department said in a tweet. It took about 50 minutes to get the fire under control, the department said. 

Murphy said the Philadelphia Housing Authority had inspected the building in 2019 and 2020, and both times installed smoke detectors. The detectors were battery operated with 10-year lithium batteries in them, but “none of them operated,” Murphy said.

At least 18 people were living in the upper apartment, which included the third floor and part of the second, and eight people were living in the lower unit, which included the first floor and the other part of the second, Murphy said. The deputy fire commissioner said he could not say whether that was more than what would be allowed, but called it a “tremendous amount of people to be living in a duplex.”

Murphy said the fire marshal would investigate the cause of the fire. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also at the scene. Murphy said the fire is “not necessarily considered suspicious” but “all hands on deck” would aid the investigation given the scale of the fire.

“We plan on making sure that this tremendous loss of life did not happen in vain,” he said.

The scene in the Fairmount neighborhood remains active, the fire department said.

“I’ve been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to,” Murphy said. 

Aerial footage from WPVI-TV showed the top two floors of the building near the corner of an intersection burned out and blackened near the windows.

Mayor Jim Kenney, whose father was a firefighter, called the incident “one of the most tragic days in our city’s history.”

“Losing so many kids is just devastating,” Kenney said.


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