2 Die In Philadelphia Rowhouse Fire

The roof collapsed as firefighters battled the blaze, which was brought under control in about an hour.


A 19-year-old man and the grandmother he was trying to save from their burning West Philadelphia home were killed early yesterday in a blaze that injured two other family members and a firefighter.

The fire started about 5 a.m. in the first-floor kitchen and did not appear suspicious, a fire official said. The cause was under investigation.

Neighbors said the family of six lived in the three-story rowhouse on the 5100 block of Arch Street and sold toys and character balloons in a small front yard. Fire officials did not release their names.

"I heard this girl screaming... 'Somebody help me. Call 911,' " said Dorothy Thompson, who lives across the street. "When I looked out I couldn't see the girl, but I saw flames on the third-floor roof."

The roof collapsed as firefighters battled the blaze, which was brought under control in about an hour. It was not clear whether the injured firefighter was on the third floor when the roof collapsed. Fire officials did not release the firefighter's name or condition.

The man and a 74-year-old woman were found dead in the woman's bedroom, a fire official said. The man apparently was trying to save the woman, who was his grandmother, the official said.

A 29-year-old woman was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after jumping from a second-floor window to a porch roof, and a 17-year-old girl, who jumped out a rear bedroom window, was taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, fire officials said. Their conditions were not available yesterday.

Two other residents, a woman identified by neighbors as Tecola Miles, 50, and a 10-year-old boy, apparently escaped without injury after jumping from the second floor to the porch roof, then working their way to a neighbor's porch.

"They were a very productive family," said Geraldine Brown. "They all worked."

Neighbors said the family stored helium canisters in the home to fill the SpongeBob, Spider-Man and other large balloons that they sold at special events throughout the city and, on warm days, outside their home.

The family has lived on the block for about six years, said neighbors, few of whom knew any of the family members' names. Their house sits in the middle of the block, next to three abandoned homes.

"Years ago we would have known everybody on this block," said Arlene Ervin, 55. "This is a time when we need to come together."

The Dunlap community organization has been trying to clean up the area and address the problem with abandoned houses, said Brown, an officer in the organization.

She said Tecola Miles attended a Dunlap meeting on fire prevention in April.

"I know they had working smoke detectors and a fire escape plan," Brown said.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross was providing food, housing, clothing and counseling to the four surviving family members and to two residents in a house next door, said Becky Rohtbart, Red Cross spokeswoman.

About 11:30 a.m., neighbor Niecy Wilkes placed a stuffed bear in front of the home. Within minutes, others neighbors had followed suit.

"They were nice people," Wilkes said. "This is sad."

The fire was the second with multiple victims in eight days in the city.

On May 14, three children were killed in an arson fire in Kensington. Their mother, Jamika Clark, 26; sister Jonte, 8; and brother Quadere, 5, remained in critical condition at Temple University Hospital yesterday.