The fire that killed 12 people in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood on Wednesday may have been started by a toddler playing with a lighter near a Christmas tree.
A 5-year-old kid who fled the row home fire informed a neighbor, a paramedic, a firefighter, and hospital staff how the fire started – and that his mother had died in it, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Officials from the United States and other countries are among the investigators. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has acquired a search order for the property, noting that “a youngster age 5 or younger” may have been involved in the city’s deadliest fire in a century.
“But this is not a criminal investigation,” Jane Roh, a spokeswoman for the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, told NBC News. “All we did was submit paperwork that would allow investigators access to the scene. This is an investigation that is being led by the Philadelphia Fire Department and the ATF.”
According to NBC 10 in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Fire Department is conducting “a resource-intensive investigation.” PFD Deputy Chief Dennis Merrigan said. “It’s an exceptional time — manpower staffing, equipment, commitment — to get to the origin and cause of this tragedy.”
The ATF has provided extensive resources due to the “magnitude of the scene and the significant loss of life.” That includes “fire protection engineers, electrical engineers and special agents who are experts in how fires ignite.”
The rental arrangement, according to Kelvin Jeremiah, president and CEO of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, was for 14 individuals in the upper apartment, where the fire happened, and six persons in the lower unit, for a total of 20 people. At the time of the fire, there were 26 individuals living in the homes, according to fire officials.
“The family grew between 2011 and 2021, adding about eight children to the family household. This is a family that wanted to be together,” said Jeremiah. “Our mission is to provide safe, sanitary housing. And I think we did so in this case.”
“This was a time of year when families gather,” he added. “We are not going to be critical of the families who have suffered this unimaginable loss. We are supporting them in their efforts.”
Two of the eight youngsters who died in the fire were current pupils and three were past students, according to the Philadelphia School District. The other three children may have gone to schools that were not SDP. Both pupils and staff have received grief counseling at their schools.
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, a nonprofit that connects the district to the private sector financially, has started a collection to help the survivors of the fire.