A West Philadelphia row house fire has claimed four lives.
The blaze broke out inside the home at 5250 Chancellor Street at about 4:40 a.m. Monday morning and was placed under control at 5:25 a.m.
The fire claimed the lives of two children — 2-year-old Jayden and 4-year-old Cyncere; their mother, 23-year-old Rishya Jenkins, and their grandfather, Seneca McClendon.
The two children were taken to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia where they were pronounced dead. Their grandfather was taken to Misericordia Hospital where he died. The children’s mother was found dead in a rear bedroom.
According to neighbors, the children’s father, Anthony McClendon, tried to get into the house when he came home from work, but he was held back by the flames.
The fire marshal’s office was investigating, and there was no immediate word on the cause of the blaze.
Executive Chief Richard Davison said no smoke detectors were found in the home.
Two nearby homes were evacuated. The American Red Cross is assisting those families.
Red Cross spokesperson Dave Schrader says the agency is partnering with the Fire Department to dissimilate smoke detectors, batteries and fire safety information at 3 p.m. Tuesday throughout the neighborhood where the fire occurred.
“Unfortunately it’s a very common occurrence where often times, there is a fatal fire and there were no smoke detectors. The single most important thing that a family can do is have a working smoke detector,” said Schrader.
Schrader says the Red Cross has initiated conversations with Philadelphia School District officials to take their message of fire safety to schools throughout the city.
On Sunday, a 79-year-old woman and her 4-year-old great-granddaughter were killed in a fire in North Philadelphia. Ardalia Bumpus and her great-granddaughter Nevaeh Bryant were found in an upstairs front bedroom in the 1200 block of West Firth Street. The fire was accidently caused in the kitchen.
According to fire officials, the recent fire brings the number of civilians who have been killed by fires this year to 14.
Earlier this year, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers issued a report which found that 27 of the 32 fire fatalities that occurred in 2011 could have been prevented with working smoke alarms. In 2011, 18 of the fire fatalities occurred in 12 structures that did not have smoke alarms, nor had alarms with dead or missing batteries. Nine citizens died in structures where smoke alarms were present, but were unable to escape.
“A lot of these fire deaths could have possibly been prevented if there were working smoke alarms in the homes,” said Davison.
Monday’s fatal fire comes a week after a warehouse blaze that claimed the lives of two firefighters. Sixty-year-old Lt. Robert Neary and 25-year-old firefighter Daniel Sweeney were killed a week ago in a building collapse at a nearby furniture store where the warehouse fire had spread in the city’s Kensington neighborhood. Two other firefighters were injured. No cause has been determined in that fire.
PHILADELPHIA — Officials promised Tuesday to conduct a careful review of dozens of other large buildings across the city and look into whether criminal charges are warranted as fire marshals search for the cause of a blaze at a vacant warehouse that killed two firefighters.
The fire broke out early Monday in the city's Kensington section. The firefighters, 60-year-old Lt. Robert Neary and 25-year-old Daniel Sweeney, were killed in a collapse at a nearby furniture store where the flames had spread.
As investigators sifted through the rubble Tuesday, Executive Chief Richard Davison said it could take a long time to determine the cause, especially considering the size of the six-story building.
Mayor Michael Nutter said the city is conducting reviews of about 30 other buildings owned by developers that own the warehouse. The city will also conduct a survey of scores of other large buildings like the warehouse where the fire started, he said.
"There is some level of neglect here," Nutter said, giving his perspective on the owners' role.
District Attorney Seth Williams said more investigating must be done before a decision can be made on whether someone could be criminally responsible.
"It would be premature for me to say anything about criminal prosecution," Williams said.
The warehouse property's corporate owner, York Street Property Development, had been cited three times since November, and a fourth citation was issued after a March 29 inspection following a community meeting, according to city officials. The city was preparing to take the owner to court as required after the first three violations, officials said, and a sheriff's sale was expected this summer because of about $72,000 in unpaid city and water tax bills.
A spokesman for lawyers representing the owners declined to comment when contacted Tuesday.
The city's Department of Licenses and Inspections said York Street Property Development had a zoning permit good through July 2013 for an 81-unit development on the site.
Neighbors had complained about people stealing things from the site and sleeping there in recent months.
Some tried to seal up the building themselves, cleaned litter around the premises and reported their concerns to the city over the past year, said Jeff Carpineta, president of the East Kensington Neighbors Association, who said the structure was repeatedly left open and unsecure. The city needs to recognize the potential disaster looming in many large old buildings across the city, Carpineta said.
"When these buildings go on fire, no one should be surprised," he said, adding that he wants to see more efforts to seal up the buildings. "It's about preventing disaster, not the technicalities of who's responsible."
Mike Bresnan, a board member for the local firefighters union, said vacant buildings are a persistent problem for firefighters. He said he hoped the city would develop a type of marking system to indicate to firefighters if a building is structurally unsafe to go inside.
"It all goes back to manpower and enforcement," Bresnan said of the city's efforts to crack down on the owners. "It sounds like they were on these guys' heels. It just sounds like the enforcement didn't have enough." -- (AP)