Christmas Tree Ignited by Lighter Caused Philadelphia Row House Fire

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Twelve people killed in the fire lived in the unit where the fire broke out last week

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“Investigators believe the tree’s burning was caused by a lighter, with almost certainty,” Mr Thiel said on Tuesday.

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The only survivor on the floor where the fire broke out early last Wednesday is a 5-year-old child, Mr. Thiel said.

“We are left with the words of that 5-year-old – who traumatized a 5-year-old – to help us understand how the lighter and the tree came together,” he said.

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According to the fire commissioner, there were multiple smoke alarms in the two-storey unit, but only one in the shared basement was working. The working smoke detector activated late, partly because of the smoke, Mr. Thiel said.

“Given the speed of the fire and the spread of the smoke … I’m not sure there was much opportunity for evacuation,” Mr. Thiel said.

About four minutes after receiving the first 911 call, firefighters responded to the scene at 6:40 a.m. Officials earlier said that it took them about an hour to bring the fire under control.

The three-story apartment building is owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority. City officials said the Philadelphia Housing Authority inspected the building twice last year and that all smoke detectors were on during the inspection.

There were 14 people living in the unit where the fire broke out, Mr. Thiel said. All 12 people who died in the fire lived in that unit. Two survived in the apartment, as did eight people living in another unit.

The authorities have noted the large number of people living in the duplex.

Calvin Jeremiah, president of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, said there is no PHA or US Department of Housing and Urban Development policy that prohibits intact families from living together as an intergenerational family.

On Sunday, days after the Philadelphia fires, New York City was hit by the deadliest fire in more than three decades. At least 17 people, including nine children, have been killed in flames in a Bronx apartment building.

Write to Omar Abdel-Baqui at [email protected]

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