Fire officials in Philadelphia were continuing their investigation Thursday into a deadly apartment fire that killed at least 12 people, including eight children.
The fire broke out Wednesday morning in a three-story building that had been converted into two apartments where 26 people were living at the time, authorities said.
The fire is among the city’s deadliest ever, and its cause has not yet been determined.
“I’ve been around for 35 years now, and this is probably one of the worst fires I’ve ever been to,” Philadelphia Fire Department First Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said Wednesday.
City officials have not yet released the names or ages of the victims of the blaze.
Here’s what we know:
Where did the fire occur?
The Philadelphia Fire Department said crews responded to the incident on North 23rd Street around 6:40 a.m. Wednesday and saw heavy flames coming from the second floor.
“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,” the city said in a Wend statement.
‘Tremendous loss of life’:At least 12 dead, including 8 children, in Philadelphia apartment fire
One of the children who died was rescued from the building but did not survive, according to the statement.
The fire broke out inside a Philadelphia Housing Authority building located in the Fairmount neighborhood in North Philadelphia.
Murphy said eight people were living in the lower unit of the building and 18 were living in the upper unit of the building.
What caused the fire?
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Murphy said Wednesday. Investigators with the city’s fire marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be looking into what sparked the blaze, he added.
Murphy said the fire was “not necessarily considered suspicious” but the investigation would be “all hands on deck.”
The building was equipped with smoke detectors but “none of them operated,” Murphy said.
The Philadelphia Housing Authority inspected one of the units in April 2021 and the other in May 2021, according to the statement from the city. Smoke detectors in the units were working during those inspections, the statement added.
Who were the victims?
Fire officials said 12 people died, including eight children and four adults. Officials initially reported 13 people died, including seven children, but revised the number Wednesday evening.
Was the number of people living in the building a violation?
Philadelphia’s code does not limit occupancy for family residence, Department of Licenses and Inspections spokesperson Karen Guss told USA TODAY. It’s also possible some of the people in the building may have been guests of the residents, rather than residents themselves, she added.
There were no records of violations issued by the city licenses and inspections department at the property, Guss added. The number of exits at the building was also sufficient, she said.
Murphy said Wednesday the building had two exits. The number of exits was not an issue in the rescue efforts, he added.
Mayor Jim Kenney told people not to jump to conclusions about the number of people living in the building at the time.
“You don’t know the circumstances of each and every family, and maybe there were relatives and family that needed to be sheltered,” Kenney said. “Obviously the tragedy happened, and we all mourn for it. But we can’t make judgment on the number of people living in the house because sometimes people just need to be indoors.”
Contributing: The Associated Press