PHILADELPHIA – On the morning of January 5, 2022, the Philadelphia Fire Department responded to a fatal house fire on the 800 block of N. 23rd St. The City continues to respond to and investigate this horrific incident.
Fire companies arrived at 6:40 a.m. and found heavy fire coming from the second floor of a three-story rowhouse. It took 50 minutes to place the fire under control.
Fire officials now confirm that 12 people—eight children and four adults—died in the fire on N. 23rd Street. That total is one less than the number reported in an earlier press conference, when recovery operations were still ongoing. Fire officials also offered more details about the incident response. Firefighters immediately entered the building to find heavy smoke, heat, and limited visibility on all floors. They made an aggressive attack on the fire, raising multiple ladders to exterior windows and the roof, and conducting search-and-rescue efforts throughout the interior. Firefighters were able to rescue one child from the building, but the child did not survive. This complex and multifaceted fire investigation will take time to complete. The PFD Fire Marshal’s Office is the lead agency, with vital assistance from the Philadelphia Police Department and federal ATF. The PFD will offer a full briefing when the investigation concludes.
“We are devastated by the tragic loss of life–several of whom are children–and my thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims. I cannot express how unimaginable this is for loved ones,” said Mayor Jim Kenney. “I want to thank our Fire Department and first responders for their response to this fire and their ongoing work on the scene. We are investigating this horrific incident, and we will continue to provide updates as they become available.”
On January 5, between 6:36 a.m. and 6:39 a.m. police radio received 36 calls to 911 regarding 869 N. 23rd Street. The first call was received at 6:36:28 and was answered immediately. The call taker got the information regarding the location of the fire. The call was transferred to fire communications at 6:37:12 and answered on two rings. Fire personnel were dispatched and enroute at 6:38:27. The first Philadelphia Fire Department company arrived on scene at 6:40 a.m.
The cause of the fire is under investigation by the PFD Fire Marshal’s Office in cooperation with the ATF. The Medical Examiner’s Office will determine the causes of death.
The property is owned, operated, and inspected by the Philadelphia Housing Authority (PHA). It had two units, which were inspected by the PHA in April 2021 and May 2021, respectively. All smoke detectors were operating properly at those times, according to PHA representatives. However, the smoke alarms were not working during the fire on Wednesday, according to fire officials.
Friends and Relative Center
A Friends and Relatives Center was opened by the Office of Emergency Management with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army at Bache-Martin Elementary School, located on N. 22nd & Parrish Street. The purpose of the center is to assist family and friends looking for information on loved ones and establish a central location for city and partner services for those affected.
The American Red Cross is assisting residents who were displaced by the fire along with providing support to the family of the deceased.
Information on the status of the Friends and Relatives center will be updated in this blog.
The Philly HopeLine
This is difficult news and especially challenging for children. For support processing with your child, consider the Philly HopeLine. The free helpline is staffed by clinicians from Uplift Center for Grieving Children, and is open to all Philadelphia students and their families. Call or text 1-833-PHL-HOPE for support. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday – Thursday and 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. on Friday.
Mental Health Resources:
- The Medical Examiner’s Office (MEO) offers free bereavement support to grieving individuals. For sudden, unexpected deaths of most Philadelphia infants, children, and teens, they offer counseling by phone or in your home. Call (215) 685-7402 to learn more.
- Healthy Minds Philly offers many free mental health resources including crisis support, grief and loss, and anxiety and depression.