PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) — Neighbors in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia are trying to cope as they share their condolences after a devastating fire took the lives of at least seven children and six adults inside a duplex.
“It’s a very solid, warm community. We all look out for each other,” Andrea, who lives two blocks from the fire scene on N. 23rd Street, told Action News.
“I was surprised to see all the fire departments, police vehicles and helicopters and found it was a fire with fatalities which is just heartbreaking. I just can’t think of anything worse than that,” Andrea said.
Andrea said she often walks her dog past the duplex. She didn’t see the fire but said it’s heartbreaking.
“One life is too many, but multiple lives is heart-wrenching,” Andrea said.
Neighbor Bill Richards who has lived on the block for 24 years said he heard a woman yell, “Oh my God! Oh my God!”
He then heard fire trucks and came outside.
“It’s very upsetting,” Richards said. “I just can’t wrap myself around it.”
Richards spoke about a young man he has watched grow up who lives in the building.
“It’s a great neighbor – a varied neighborhood. There are houses that have single families, multi families, there are apartments, a lot of renters but there are single families. I’ve been here for 24 years. I love the neighborhood,” Richards said.
The fire broke out around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday in the 800 block of N. 23rd Street.
Firefighters arrived to find heavy flames shooting from the second story of the three-story row house.
The fire department said it took about 50 minutes to bring the fire under control.
Lindsay Hull told Action News she came upon the scene at 7 a.m. She saw stretchers.
She said her friend lives in the building next to the duplex.
“That’s a house that has a lot of kids,” Hull said. “It’s sad.”
Kyle Medernach said he has walked by the building for years.
He knows the faces of the families who lived there.
Medernach said he was woken up by screams outside and then he saw the flames.
“It was just a shocking moment,” Medernach said. “Thoughts and prayers with the families and the victims.”
Officials said 18 people lived in a 2nd-floor apartment of the three-story duplex. Another eight people lived on the first floor.
One man named Kevin just moved into the neighborhood last month one block away.
He was awake when he saw the fire trucks and ambulances zoom by.
Kevin stepped outside and smelled the smoke coming from down the street.
“I saw plenty of smoke coming out of the windows,” Kevin said. “I did eventually see a young woman run down the street…she looked in tears. She was very devastated. It was surreal to see that.”
Kevin said because of the duplex-style housing on the block, “It can happen to anyone really.”
“These buildings usually consist of three different apartments, so if something happens to one it can jeopardize everyone else, as well. You really need to be careful,” Kevin said.
Neighbor Michelle told Action News, “You come out. You think it’s not close. You think it’s never as close as it is.”
She said another fire occurred just before Thanksgiving on the same block.
“Twice,” Michelle said. “It’s horrible.”
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