Seven killed in Philadelphia house fire


Friday, April 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


(PHILADELPHIA) - Seven people were killed Friday in a fire at a trash-filled row house where many of the residents were elderly and disabled.

The fire, reported about 6:40 a.m., was quickly brought under control, but seven people were killed by smoke inhalation and a young girl was critically injured, officials said. All of the dead appeared to be adults.

The North Philadelphia building was in disarray and full of trash, Fire Commissioner Harold B. Hairston said. It had at least one fire alarm but appeared to have no smoke detectors or sprinklers. The fire alarm had not been pulled, he said.

``This is a three-story property with a tremendous amount of rooms,'' Hairston said. ``It looks like it's about 11 rooms on the second floor and, I think, it's nine on the third floor and quite a few rooms on the first floor.''

Boarder Mark Giles said he was in bed listening to the radio when he noticed smoke coming under his door and heard a woman screaming and the sound of an explosion. He climbed out his third-floor window and got down the fire escape.

``I looked into the alley and the alley was all foggy with smoke and the kitchen was all red,'' said Giles, 40, who had lived in the house about four months.

``My heart hurts because everyone else is dead,'' Giles said.

Neighbor Dorothy Singletary said the Indiana Avenue building was known in the neighborhood as the ``Indiana House'' and was home to the mentally and physically disabled. Other neighbors described it as a boarding house.

``We're very saddened by it because they are like family,'' Singletary said. ``We see them every day and talk to them. The whole neighborhood is saddened.''

Kadello Mosley, who lives a few doors down, said a woman ran up and down the street banging on doors in a desperate plea for help. She said the woman's hair had been singed by the fire.

``Everybody else burned up. They were mentally challenged. They couldn't get out,'' Mosley said. Some survivors and relatives gathered in Mosley's home, screaming and wailing.

An 8-year-old girl was taken to a Hahnemann University Hospital, where she was listed in critical condition. She was later transferred to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The cause of the one-alarm blaze was not immediately known.

Based on interviews with neighbors, 13 people may have been living there, Hairston said.

``We don't even know if there was 13 in there,'' he said. ``With that much disarray all over the place ... there's so many rooms filled with bags of trash ... it's hard to say.''