It was a dark start to the weekend in Philadelphia and Norristown as intense fires killed six people, including a child, and sent seven to the hospital over a 12 hour span Saturday, fire officials in both towns said.
Norristown Fire chief Tom O'Donnell said when firefighters got to the home, they were met with heavy flames on the first floor. The fire quickly grew to two alarms, he said.
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Two adults were found dead inside the home and a child was taken to Albert Einstein Medical Center and later died, O'Donnell said. It's not yet clear if they were related.
Another child was rushed to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia in critical condition. Five other people were taken to nearby hospitals. Their injuries and conditions were not immediately known.
O'Donnell said his department, Pennsylvania State Police and the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office is investigating. He couldn't say whether smoke detectors were in the home.
A few hours before, in South Philadelphia, a couple died in their bedroom as a fire tore through the third floor of their rowhome, the city's acting fire commissioner said.
Philadelphia firefighters were called to the home along the 1700 block of Moore Street around midnight. When they arrived, heavy flames were coming from the house's third floor front bedroom, said Derrick Sawyer, the fire commissioner.
Sawyer said the couple had six smoke detectors in the home, but that the batteries were bad. There was a lot of debris piled up inside the home, which may have provided fuel for the flames. The alley next to the home was blocked with debris as well.
The Philadelphia Fire Marshal is investigating the cause.
As probes into both fires got underway, a third blaze broke out inside a West Philadelphia apartment.
Heavy flames tore through the apartment inside a building along the 4700 block of Hazel Avenue around 7:35 a.m.
Sawyer said it appeared a man tried to fight back the flames instead of escaping. He was overcome inside the apartment and died. Firefighters found an extinguisher near where the fire started as well as a working smoke alarm system.
"If there's a fire, get out and stay out," Sawyer advised residents. "Don't fight the fire. Especially if you don't have a large enough fire extinguisher. The second thing is this apartment building had bars on the windows. If you're going to have bars on the windows you want to make sure that everyone has a quick-release button on the bars so that people can get out safely. Have an escape plan. You have to have a plan to get out when there's a fire."
Another resident was taken to a nearby hospital with undisclosed injuries. Eight people inside the building were able to escape. Eleven people in all were displaced from the apartment complex as well as an adjacent building.
There have been eight fire fatalities so far this year in Philadelphia. Last year at this time there were five fire fatalities.
"You can see we're not doing a pretty good job of keeping our people safe in the city," Sawyer said.
Sawyer took to Twitter following both fires reminding residents that firefighters will install smoke detectors with 10 year batteries in homes for free. All they need to do is call 311 and make the request.
"If there's a fire get out first and dial 911," he said. "If you try to fight the fire you may not be successful."