Seven children among 13 killed in Philadelphia fire

Smoke detectors failed to go off amid early morning blaze at public housing building

At least 13 people, including seven children, were killed in an early morning fire on Wednesday in a Philadelphia apartment building after smoke detectors failed to go off, the Philadelphia fire department said.

Firefighters arrived at the scene at about 6.40am (11.40am Irish time) and fought for about 50 minutes to control the blaze on the second floor of the three-storey building in the city’s Fairmount neighbourhood. The building is owned by the city’s public housing authority.

Eight people managed to escape the building through one of the two exits, and seven children were among those killed, Philadelphia deputy fire commissioner Craig Murphy told reporters at a nearby news conference. Officials did not give the children's ages.

"Keep those babies in your prayers," mayor Jim Kenney told reporters.


Fire officials said the death count could change.

The facade of the red-brick building was blackened following the incident, its windows smashed out and dark.

“It was terrible,” Mr Murphy told reporters. “I’ve been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to.”

A child and an adult were taken by paramedics to nearby hospitals. There were four smoke detectors in the building but they failed to activate, fire officials said.

There were conflicting accounts as to when the smoke detectors were last inspected.

The fire department said they were last inspected in 2020. Dinesh Indala, executive vice-president at the Philadelphia Housing Authority, told reporters the last annual inspection was in May 2021.

He said there were six functioning detectors at the time of the May inspection, not four. He said he did not know why the detectors did not go off.

The building was converted to house two families, Mr Indala said, and 26 people lived in the building. – Reuters