At least 13 people, including seven children, were killed in an early morning fire Wednesday in a Philadelphia row house, according to police and fire officials.
Two other people were left in critical condition from the flames.
The Philadelphia Fire Department described it as a ‘fatal fire’ and later called the number of fatalities ‘dynamic,’ indicating that the number of those killed could change as the recovery continues.
‘Without a doubt one of the most tragic days in our city’s history,’ Mayor Jim Kenney said during a news conference.
Flames broke out around 6.40am on the second floor of the rowhome located in the dense residential neighborhood of Fairmont. It took about 50 minutes for firefighters to take down the blaze.
Eight people managed to escape the building, but seven children were among those killed, fire officials confirmed. The ages of those children have not yet been released.
‘Keep those babies in your prayers,’ the mayor told reporters during a news conference early Wednesday.
Officials say 18 people lived in a 2nd-floor apartment of the three-story duplex. Another eight people lived on the first floor.
Deputy Fire Commissioner Craig Murphy said it was a ‘tremendous amount of people to be living in a duplex.’
The connected homes, converted into apartments, are owned by the city’s public housing authority, according to the local NBC affiliate.
There were four smoke detectors in the building, but fire officials say when they arrived on scene the smoke detectors were not operating.
The duplex is a Philadelphia Housing Authority property. In a statement, the housing authority’s president and CEO Kelvin A Jeremiah said the property was last inspected in the spring, but that all spoke detectors were ‘operating properly at that time.’
A neighbor said he heard screams around 6.30 am and came downstairs to see flames coming out of the building.
‘It was just such a shocking moment,’ he said.
Real estate records show the rowhouse was split into five units.
The cause of the fire has not yet been revealed.