Photo by Steve Skipton at PhillyFireNews.com. Click here to see the rest of Steve’s pictures and his description of the fire.
A house fire apparently caused by an exploding kerosene heater killed seven people, and six were found huddled together in the basement, a survivor and firefighters said.
Those killed in the Friday night blaze were four adults and three children, including a 1-year-old, who was cradled in the arms of another victim.
Four people survived the fire, which broke out around 10:45 p.m. at a three-story brick duplex in a working-class neighborhood in the southwest section of the city, close to the Philadelphia International Airport, fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.
Harris Murphy, who lives down the street, said he was visiting people in the home when the fire erupted.
Murphy, 35, recounted his tale after returning from a hospital wearing a hospital gown and bandages on his right hand and head. He said a woman at the home had tried to pour fuel into a kerosene heater but it got too hot and she tried to carry it outside.
“The whole thing exploded,” he said.
Authorities from multiple agencies were looking for possible code violations in the home, and Ayers found one almost immediately: The basement had only one exit.
The seventh victim was found dead near that exit, said Ayers, who stressed the need for homes to have accessible exits and smoke alarms.
“We went through every inch of this place,” he said. “We have not found a smoke alarm, not one.”
Firefighters arrived at the scene within 3 minutes of receiving an emergency call, and it took them 30 minutes to bring the fire under control.