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With At Least 12 Killed, Fairmount Fire Deadliest Single Fire In Philadelphia In Century

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A fire Wednesday morning in Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood claimed at least 12 lives -- eight of them children. It is the deadliest single fire in Philadelphia in at least a century.

So many killed in a single fire is almost unheard of in Philadelphia.

Eyewitness News spoke with a historian who said he can't think of a fire that had more civilian lives lost than Wednesday's. He said there could be changes to city regulations once the investigation is complete.

"One of the most severe fires in the city's history," said Brian Anderson, curator for Philadelphia's Fireman's Hall Museum.

Anderson says the Wednesday morning fire will go down as one of the city's deadliest. But he recalls other dark days in the city's history.

In 1975, eight firefighters and one police officer were killed in the Gulf refinery fire in South Philly. The first responders were killed in an explosion hours after the fire was first called in.

"That was due to the leaking of the flammable fluid that was in the cylinders that sparked up due to the apparatus' exhaust that was located close to the ground, underneath the apparatus," Anderson said.

One of the city's more infamous fires occurred in May 1985. Its been dubbed the MOVE bombing after Philadelphia Police dropped a bomb over a neighborhood in West Philly. It was a botched attempt to arrest members of the MOVE group, but it leveled an entire neighborhood.

"The tragedy took 11 peoples' lives -- five kids and six adults and six blocks of houses," Anderson said.

In February 1991, three firefighters were killed in the Meridian Bank fire. The building located across from City Hall was one of the tallest buildings in the city at the time. The fire erupted on the 22nd floor and before it was extinguished, spread up to the 30th floor.

The firefighters were killed by smoke inhalation. Anderson says it brought about changes in the city's fire regulations.

"That came about having fire suppression sprinkler systems, updating the fire code on what should be in place in these high rises, unfortunately, using the three firefighters that died from Engine 11 that day," Anderson said.

The city's deadliest fire was back in 1901 when 22 people were killed in a furniture store in Center City.

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