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Philly Fire Chief Adam Thiel Gets Emotional After 4 People, Including 3 Children, Killed In House Fire: 'Philadelphia Has Fire Problem'

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Philadelphia fire commissioner Adam Thiel was emotional Sunday afternoon as he provided an update following a house fire that left four people dead, including three children, in Kensington.

"Philadelphia has a fire problem and we need your help because fire is everyone's fight," Thiel said.

Thiel says there was so much fire blowing out of the first and second story of a home on the 3200 block of Hartville Street when firefighters arrived around 2 a.m. that they couldn't get close to the building.

The street is also so narrow that they were not able to get the entire engine into the block.

An aggressive interior attack led firefighters into the home where they searched for survivors and started to knock down the flames. One person was able to escape and was transported to the hospital and placed in stable condition.

Unfortunately, three children and another person did not survive the fire.

Two of the children who died were students at Lewis Elkin Elementary, principal Charlotte Gillum-Maddox said. She says the children were in Kindergarten and third grade. A number of teachers from the elementary school were at the home in support of the family.

The fire was placed under control at 2:28 a.m.

At this point in the investigation, Commissioner Thiel says there is no evidence of working smoke detectors inside the home.

The fire department is pleading for Philadelphia residents to ensure they have proper, working smoke detectors inside their homes. It's as simple as calling 311 to schedule to have the fire department come out and check.

"Folks it matters, it matters," Thiel said. "Our firefighters are the best in the business, they do an incredible job but when you see this fire, when you see the video of other fires, you'll see our members accepting an incredible level of risk quite literally putting their lives on the line to get in these homes and do everything they can to make a rescue and put the fire out. Unfortunately with fires burning hotter and faster than ever before, despite our best efforts, the best efforts of our members, we are tragically and unfortunately as this morning too often, too late to make the difference we want to make. All of us standing here swore an oath to protect lives and property everywhere we can do it. For us, the worst possible thing is to not be able to save a life."

Thiel says so far in 2022 before 2:30 a.m. Sunday, there have been 17 fire fatalities in Philadelphia. Twelve people were killed in the tragic Fairmount fire on Jan. 5 and five others have died since. These four victims bring the fire fatalities to a total of 21.

At least 312 families in Philadelphia have been displaced by fires in 2022.

Lewis Elkin Elementary has started an online fundraiser to support the family impacted by this morning's fire.

"They are our babies and on a Sunday we are here with the family, we are joined with them to make sure that anything is needed, that they receive," Principal Charlotte Gillum-Maddox said.

"Her whole life just vanished right in front of her." Family members of a mother who lost her husband and 3 sons in a house fire over the weekend spoke with CBS3's Kerri Corrado ➡

Posted by CBS Philly on Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Gillum-Maddox says the school is also partnering with the Philly fire department prevention program to ensure students have fire prevention lessons through the end of the year.

The cause of the fire is under investigation and the victims' causes of death will be determined by the medical examiner's office.

The fire department says more than 60 members responded to the fire.

Stay with and CBS News Philly for the latest on this developing story. 

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