At least 12 people were killed in a fire at a public housing building in Philadelphia on Wednesday morning, the city's fire department said. Eight children are among the victims in the two-unit rowhouse in Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said it was "devastating" to lose so many children. "Keep these babies in your prayers," the mayor told reporters.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy told reporters eight people escaped from the building. Two others were transported to area hospitals.
"I've been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to," Murphy said at a press conference.
Crews responded to the blaze at 6:38 a.m., Murphy said. The fire was under control by 7:31 a.m., CBS Philly reports.
Murphy said he didn't know what caused the fire.
Officials revise death toll, now say 12 dead
Officials have revised the death toll from Wednesday morning's fire and now say 12 people were killed. Officials had previously said 13 people died in the fire.
"Fire officials now confirm that 12 people — eight children and four adults — died in the fire on N. 23rd Street, the city of Philadelphia said in a press release Wednesday night. "That total is one less than the number reported in an earlier press conference, when recovery operations were still ongoing."
Smoke detectors were working as of May 2021 inspection, says PHA
All smoke detectors at the Philadelphia property where at least 13 people were killed were operating properly at the time of an inspection in May 2021, Philadelphia Housing Authority president and CEO, Kelvin Jeremiah, said in a statement.
"This unimaginable loss of life has shaken all of us at PHA," he said. "It is too early for us to say more."
He said the PHA's primary goal at this time is to support its residents in any way they can.
2 apartments in rowhouse
The rowhouse included two apartments and was owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, according to officials. The agency describes itself as the nation's fourth largest public housing authority.
The first-floor unit reportedly had eight occupants and the second and third-floor unit had 18 people living in it, Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said.
"That is a tremendous amount of people to be living in a duplex," he said.
"Probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to"
Philadelphia Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy described the scene on Wednesday as 'terrible."
"I've been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to," he said at a press conference.
He said eight people self-evacuated the duplex, and that recovery efforts were ongoing late Wednesday morning.
Two people were transported to hospitals.
Building last inspected in May, official says
The building was last inspected in May 2021, a Philadelphia housing official told reporters.
Dinesh Indala, an executive vice president for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, told reporters the inspection found six smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors that were working in one of the building's two units.
Seven smoke detectors and three carbon monoxide detectors were found in the other unit at the time of its last inspection in April 2021, he said. Two smoke detectors were installed at that time.
At a press conference earlier, however, Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said there were four smoke detectors in the building and that none of them were operating. He also said the last inspection was in 2020.
The home was owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, Murphy said.
Neighbor: "I just heard screams"
A local resident said the sound of screams woke him up Wednesday morning around 6:30 a.m. He doesn't know if they were coming from people in the building that burned or from people on the street seeing the blaze.
He came down from his apartment near the site of the fire into the street.
"The flames were huge," he told CBSN Philly.
"You can't really imagine something like this happening."