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.
Two firefighters were killed and two others seriously injured while fighting to control a massive five-alarm inferno in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
The firemen were killed when the ceiling and a wall collapsed inside a furniture store that was burning at Boston Street and Kensington Avenue. They have been identified as Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25. Both men were attached to Ladder 10 of the Philadelphia Fire Department.
“It is with profound sadness that I announce the deaths of two of Philadelphia firefighters who perished early this morning in the line of duty during a five alarm fire,” said Mayor Michael Nutter. “These firefighters made the ultimate sacrifice for the people of Philadelphia. This is a tremendous loss for their families and the city of Philadelphia. My prayers go out to their families and to the Philadelphia Fire Department, whose members have lost two of their brothers.
“My thoughts also go out to the firefighters and the families of those who were injured in the line of duty this morning. We are grateful that they are receiving the top medical care available. Our first responders — our firefighters, police officers and paramedics — are our heroes and make unimaginable sacrifices each and every day for the citizens of Philadelphia. I would like to thank them for their service, and our hearts go out to those who have lost their colleagues and friends.”
According to Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, the fire started inside a warehouse at East York and Jasper Streets at 3:13 a.m. Because of the high winds and dry conditions, the blaze quickly escalated to a 5-alarm inferno that spread to six houses and the Giamari Furniture Store. The fire was declared under control around 5:15 a.m.
"We have two firefighters that lost their lives," said a shaken Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers. Ayers said that Neary and Sweeney were with three other firefighters were inside battling the peripheral blaze when the ceiling of the store and a wall collapsed. It took almost two hours to dig the injured personnel out. "We're asking for prayers for the families. We’re getting a lot of support. Just as we serve our citizens, right now they’re serving us.”
As the fire engulfed the warehouse, high winds blew hot embers to six nearby houses, causing damage but fortunately, no further deaths or injuries. The Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania was on hand and offered comfort and assistance to the displaced local residents.
According to a statement released by the firefighters’ union, Neary had 38 years with the Philadelphia Fire Department after serving three years in the Philadelphia Police Department. He leaves behind a wife, Diane and three adult children, Robert, Christopher and Dianne.
Sweeney, according to the union statement, joined the fire department in 2006, and is the son of a retired Philadelphia fire captain, David Sweeney. He was unmarried.
Seriously injured by the fire were firefighters Francis Chaney, 43, and Patrick Nally, 25. Chaney is an eight-year veteran of the department and Nally has served five years. Both were listed in stable condition, and Nally was released.
Labor committee to hold fire safety hearings
As its spring session winds down, City Council on Thursday tackled a variety of issues from authorizing hearings on the recent deaths of two firefighters to approving plans for a trash-to-energy plant.
Council met to begin clearing its calendar as it prepares to recess for the summer. As it dealt with a number of items, a much larger one — the Added Value Initiative property assessment — was also on the agenda Thursday. The last scheduled meeting for this session is June 21.
Members unanimously agreed that the Labor Committee should hold fire safety and administration hearings in the wake of the deaths of firefighters Robert Neary and Daniel Sweeney, who died in April while battling a warehouse fire in Kensington.
“The hearings are intended to help prevent future tragedies,” said Councilman Jim Kenney, who proposed the hearings.
“It’s not necessarily to cast blame on anyone, but to review all the information … so we can prevent a tragedy like this from ever happening again,” said Kenney.
Neary and Sweeney, both members of Engine 10, Ladder 7, died April 9 while battling a five-alarm fire at an abandoned warehouse at York and Jasper streets.
They were the first firefighters to die in the line of duty in the city in six years.
Also at Thursday’s Council meeting, opposition emerged to plans to build a plant that will produce energy in the form of fuel pellets made from the city’s garbage.
Citing concerns that the plant would simply burn more trash than it would turn into fuel pellets, Brady Russell, with Clear Water Action, asked Council to delay a vote for two months.
“The contracts were never reviewed by the solid waste review committee,” Russell said, reeling off a list of concerns that centered on fears that the plant would burn most of the waste. “From the green perspective, it’s only greener if the green you’re talking about is money.”
The cost to incinerate is less that landfilling, he said, but more harmful to the environment.
“In terms of global warming, it does more harm on balance,” Russell said.
The local Sierra Club also objected to plans for the plant.
Plans are to build the $22 million plant this summer in the Northeast. It will harvest recyclables from the city’s 143,000 tons of trash, then turn the remaining solids into fuel pellets that can replace coal at chemical manufacturing plants, cement kilns and electric generation plants.
Despite the protest, Council approved two bills giving contracts worth $256 million over the next four years to Waste Management and Covanta 4 Recovery for hauling and getting rid of the city’s trash. According to Streets Commissioner Clarena Tolson, the two contracts would save the city about $7 million a year. In addition, she projected that the plant would generate about $1.25 million annually in tax revenue.
Council also heard from City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, who asked members to approve raises for poll workers. Council authorized hearings on how poll workers are paid.
Singer told Council that Philadelphia’s polls workers’ pay was equal to those in Memphis. She asked that Council raise their pay to prevailing wage.
“Our poll workers are defending democracy,” she said. “We ask a lot of them, and they have an added responsibility — in November they will have to enforce the voter ID law … It’s a big election. And, we expect there will be a lot attention on Philadelphia and how we conduct our elections.”
Council urged to block mayor’s recent order
Mayor Michael Nutter may have bitten off more than he can chew with his new ban on feeding the homeless in public parks. Opponents of the policy, enacted last month, flooded City Council’s meeting Thursday to ask council to somehow block the ban.
They accused the mayor of trying to curtail their religious freedom, their civil rights and of contradicting the teachings of Christ. Nutter, citing health and sanitary concerns, and worries about personal dignity and access to services, recently announced a policy that bans large scale feeding of the homeless in public parks. It forces food donors to serve meals indoors — at places where the homeless may also have access to the services many of them need.
No one who spoke at Thursday’s council meeting supported the mayor.
“Would it be sanitary, would it give dignity to have homeless people eat out of trash cans and dumpsters?” asked Veronica Joyner, founder of the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School, where students are required to help feed the homeless as part of the school’s curriculum.
According to statistics read by Joyner to council members, there are about 13,000 homeless people in Philadelphia. Joyner noted that many are veterans and have substance abuse problems.
Joyner and about 10 of her students were part of a group of more than 30 people, many of whom brought their Bibles and quoted from them, who signed up to speak during the meeting.
All of the speakers supported Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell’s call for council to hold hearings on how the policy would affect the homeless. Many wanted council to go a step further and block the policy.
Blackwell introduced a resolution two weeks ago calling for hearings on the issue. A vote was expected Thursday. But, as the meeting started to take on the air of a church service, complete with one man — Reggie Marrow — singing during his allotted time, Council President Darrell Clarke, after a quiet sidebar with Blackwell, ended all speeches on the topic.
“We get your point,” Clarke said.
In the end, Blackwell held the resolution, delaying a vote for at least one more week.
“We decided to hold it such that if we wanted to amend it, or can work out some compromise, that we get another opportunity to do that,” she told reporters after the meeting.
It was a move that will also keep the pressure on the mayor.
“Certainly as long as it’s on the calendar, the public has the right to come and say what they think,” she said.
The mayor’s s office said the policy is not official and wouldn’t be until after administration hearings.
“The Parks and Recreation Commissioner will have a hearing in the near future on the proposed regulation,” said Nutter’s spokesman Mark McDonald. “Thereafter there is a process lasting a number of weeks before the reg is official … the administration … will be creating a taskforce of stakeholders to work toward bringing all outdoor food serving into more dignified and safer indoor settings.”
If Blackwell’s resolution passes, council’s Committee on Housing, Neighborhood Development and the Homeless will hold hearings on the impact of the ban. What steps she might take after that depend on the findings.
Council cannot compel the mayor to rescind his policy, Blackwell noted, but hearings would increase political pressure on the mayor to rethink it.
According to the Rev. Brian Jenkins, pastor of Chosen 300 Ministries, coalition of churches across the city has been formed to oppose the policy.
The group takes exception to Nutter’s policy on several grounds.
Jenkins said it was a violation of civil rights.
“Separate but equal was abolished in 1954,” he said.
For Erica Moulinier, it stepped on her right to worship freely.
“It creates bureaucratic barriers to compassion,” she said. “For many of us, feeding is not only an act of compassion, but an act of faith.”
Adam Bruckner, founder of Philly Restart, a group dedicated to feeding the homeless, even took offense to the mayor’s choice of words – when Nutter announced the new policy he used the phrase “outdoor feeding.”
Feeding is for farms,” Bruckner said. “We serve meals.”
One man tied the new rule to the opening of the new Barnes Foundation on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
“It really looks like an attempt to hide the homeless,” said Brett Anderson, who then quoted the Bible. “For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat.”
Nutter announced the ban in mid-March. At the time, he also said the administration would come up with a new, long-term approach to feeding the hungry within 90 days.
The mayor pitched the policy as one centered on public health and safety concerns, and as way to assist people needing food and shelter.
“Aside from the dignity provided by sitting down at a given time in a given place for a nutritious meal, an indoor location enables the city and its partners to offer health, mental health, housing, a place to receive mail and other needed services to this very vulnerable population,” Nutter said at the time.
Nutter added that until the many groups that feed the homeless outside and those that have indoor facilities can coordinate their activities, the outdoor groups can feed people on the apron at city hall.
Large scale feeding, which used to happen in Love Park and on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway near the Family Court building have been moved to the apron.
In other news, council passed resolutions honoring fallen firefighters Lt. Robert Neary and Daniel Sweeney, who were killed Monday while fighting a fire in an empty warehouse in Kensington. Both men were killed after a wall in an adjacent building collapsed on them.
Council unanimously passed a resolution honoring the memory and service of each man with a standing vote.
Finally, council also passed a resolution “calling for justice” in the Trayvon Martin case.
The resolution, introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown two weeks ago, passed just one day after Martin’s accused killer George Zimmerman was arrested, and 45 days after the incident that resulted in Martin’s death.
“Two weeks ago … we did not know whether the family would ever see this day,” Brown said. “We now know they will be given their day in court. We will all be given the opportunity to find out just what happened on Feb. 25.”
PHILADELPHIA — Investigators say wiring is to blame for a house fire that killed two young children and two adults in west Philadelphia.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says the fire marshal determined the April 16 blaze was caused by non-permanent electrical wiring. A 2-year-old boy and a 4-year-old boy were killed, along with a 23-year-old woman and a 68-year-old man. Fire officials say they found no smoke detectors in the home.
Investigators also announced that cooking was to blame for a Sunday, April 15 fire that killed a 4-year-old child and a 79-year-old woman in north Philadelphia.
No cause has been announced for a warehouse fire that led to the deaths of two firefighters last week. Sixty-year-old Lt. Robert Neary and 25-year-old firefighter Daniel Sweeney were killed in a building collapse while battling that blaze. -- (AP)
PHILADELPHIA — Fire tore through a row house early Monday, killing two young children and two adults, officials said.
The one-alarm blaze broke out at the two-story home in west Philadelphia shortly before 4:45 a.m. and the fire was fully involved when firefighters arrived, Executive Chief Richard Davison said.
A 2-year-old boy, a 4-year-old boy and a 68-year-old man were pronounced dead at a hospital, Davison said. The fourth victim, a 23-year-old woman, was pronounced dead at the scene. The identities and relationships of the victims were not released.
The fire marshal's office was investigating and there was no immediate word on the cause of the blaze, which was declared under control in less than 45 minutes, Davison said. Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said firefighters on the scene did not find any smoke detectors inside the home.
The 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. -- (AP)
The investigation into what caused a horrific 5-alarm fire last week that left two firefighters dead continues with a grand jury empaneled to look into the blaze.
Two firefighters were killed last week and two others seriously injured while fighting to control a massive five-alarm inferno in the Kensington section area of the city.
The firemen died when the ceiling and a wall collapsed inside a furniture store that was burning at Boston Street and Kensington Avenue. They have been identified as Lt. Robert Neary, 60, and firefighter Daniel Sweeney, 25. Both men were attached to Ladder 10 of the Philadelphia Fire Department.
According to Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, the fire started inside a warehouse at East York and Jasper streets at 3:13 a.m. Because of the high winds and dry conditions, the blaze quickly escalated to a 5-alarm inferno that spread to six houses and the Giamari Furniture Store. The fire was declared under control around 5:15 a.m.
“The investigation into the April 9, 2012, fatal fire at the Thomas W. Buck Hosiery building in the Kensington section of the city is being submitted to the Philadelphia County Investigating Grand Jury,” said Tasha Jamerson, spokesperson for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in a press release. “Philadelphia Fire Lt. Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney were both killed while fighting the blaze. This will be the only public statement on this case now that a grand jury investigation is underway; legally the District Attorney’s Office cannot comment any further.”
In an unrelated criminal investigation, Philadelphia police are looking for a suspect in an afternoon shooting in South Philadelphia that left two men wounded, one of them critically.
The shooting happened on Wednesday, April 18 in the 700 block of South Juniper Street around 1:45 p.m. Investigators have not released the names of the victims as of Tribune press time. Responding officers found the victims in the 1300 block of Bainbridge Street; one man had been shot in the back, the other was struck in the foot. Both were rushed to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
The exact cause of the shooting is under investigation, and so far no arrests have been made.
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)
The city is holding a memorial today to commemorate the deaths of three Philadelphia firefighters who were killed in the line of duty just one year apart.
Captain Michael Goodwin perished when the roof of a burning three story building collapsed beneath him on Saturday, April 6. Lt. Robert P. Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney gave their lives fighting an inferno of a warehouse fire in Kensington on April 9, 2012. Firefighter Andrew Godlewski was seriously injured while trying to recue Goodwin, who will receive a posthumous promotion during the ceremony.
“Today, we mourn the loss of Captain Michael Goodwin of the Philadelphia Fire Department and the injury to Firefighter Andrew Godlewski who tried to save him,” Nutter said in a press statement. “Captain Goodwin was a leader who for 29 years put on the uniform of our respected department and risked his life on a daily basis in order to protect all of us from the ravages of fire and destruction. On Saturday, while leading his ladder company in the suppression of a raging fire, Michael Goodwin, husband, father of two, brother to three siblings, perished in the inferno. This tragedy comes just three days before the one-year anniversary of the deaths of Lt. Robert P. Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney who gave their lives fighting a raging warehouse fire in Kensington. Members of the Philadelphia Fire Department are in mourning again for one of their own and recall these two fallen heroes. Our firefighters need our support and prayers, but we know that every minute of every day, they are protecting us with all their skill and heart and we thank them.”
Goodwin, 53, died on Saturday while fighting the fire of a three-story fabric store in the city’s Queen Village section. He was on the roof battling the blaze when it collapsed. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Another firefighter, Andrew Godlewski, 23, was burned while trying to rescue him. Goodwin was a 29-year veteran of the Department.
The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
“Like Capt. Goodwin, firefighter Andrew Godlewski, a five-year veteran, fought the blazing fire and with all of his professional training risked his life in an effort to save Capt. Goodwin. Please join with me in praying for firefighter Godlewski’s swift recovery,” said Nutter.
Last year on April 9, two firefighters, Lt. Robert P. Neary and Firefighter Daniel Sweeney were killed and three others suffered injuries while fighting to control a massive five alarm inferno in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.
Neary and Sweeney were killed when the ceiling and a wall collapsed inside a furniture store that was burning at Boston Street and Kensington Avenue.