12-Year-Old Pennsylvania Girl Killed in Fire

A 12-year-old girl was killed and her four siblings and mother injured when a fire destroyed their Point Breeze home early this morning.

Firefighters found Monique Beraydon in the second-floor bathroom where the fire originated. The cause is under investigation, fire officials said.

The four other children were taken to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Two girls, ages 9 and 11, were in critical condition with burns and smoke inhalation. Two boys, ages 2 and 5, were in stable condition suffering from smoke inhalation. A five-month-old girl was hospitalized with burns to her face and abdomen. A seventh child was not at home when the fire began.

The 32-year-old mother, who was the only adult in the home when the fire began, was transferred to Temple University Hospital and had burns over 18 percent of her body, said Lt. Michael Grant, a fire department spokesman. Her name was not released.

No firefighters were hurt but one was receiving a critical stress debriefing.

"Everybody's starting to feel it. Too many kids, too close together," Grant said.

On June 14, a fire triggered by a portable fan killed a seven-year-old boy fire was killed in his Mount Airy home. On June 12, five children ages 6 months to 6 years died in a house fire in Kensington.

Thus far in 2005, the city has tallied 35 fire deaths, 12 of those children, Grant said. Last year at this time, there had been 19 fire deaths.

The fire began around 5 a.m., officials said. Witnesses described an emotional, hectic scene: the screaming mother running out with two children in her arms and trying to scale a fence; one of the boys straddling a second-story window, seemingly frozen, until a neighbor pulled him out by his foot; firefighters screaming for a medic as they ran down the street with children in their arms.

And, finally, firemen carrying Monique in a blue body bag.

"That's something you never forget," neighbor Mary Mills, 50, said of the scene. "It's too close. We're just losing too many children."

Two smoke detectors in the home - a working one in the basement and a non-working one in the stairwell between the first and second floor, Grant said. The battery had been removed from the second detector, he said, noting that firefighters often find people remove the batteries from detectors located near kitchens.