A father and his 8-year-old son are dead after a fire erupted inside a building in Delaware County Sunday morning.
Both died of their injuries as flames broke out inside the building near the intersection of W. 2nd Street and Concord Avenue in Chester. Firefighters also pulled the man's 4-year-old son from the structure and took him to a hospital, Chester Fire Department Commissioner William Rigby said.
Family members identified the man as Ralph Freeman. Neighbors said he had been living there with his kids.
Freeman was a loving father who even made a makeshift backyard so his sons would have somewhere to play, said Khalif Ahissamaden, who said he lived on the other side of the building for a period of time.
"He told me he was moving. I wish he did, just for the sake of the kids. I wish he did," Ahissamaden said.
When firefighters arrived to the building, they saw smoke coming out of the second floor and tried to rush in, but had a tough time entering because there was a lot of debris on the first floor blocking their path, Rigby said.
Firefighters were finally able to pull both the 8-year-old and the 4-year-old from a rear bedroom and took them to a hospital, where the eldest son died, Rigby said. The 4-year-old remains in critical condition at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, family members said.
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Later, firefighters found Freeman's body at the other end of the building, Rigby said.
The building at one time housed businesses on the first floor and apartments on the second.
A family member told NBC10 Freeman bought the building about a year ago. The first floor was vacant commercial space at the time of the fire but Freeman and his family were living upstairs.
One neighbor said he previously warned Freeman about the dangerous living conditions.
"He had the doors barricaded which I knew about that," Richard Pedrick, a neighbor, said. "But he just never listened to me or nobody really."
Friends and neighbors continue to add to a memorial near the scene of the fire.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.