Investigators Search for Clues in Philly Fire that Killed 5

PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Investigators continued to search for clues to the cause of a tragic blaze that ripped through a row house and, within a few minutes, killed five children.

''We lost five people. We're going to make sure that we go over everything in that house,'' Executive Fire Chief Daniel Williams said late Monday afternoon. ''As of right now, fire marshals are still (investigating) at the location and the cause is still undetermined.''

The fast-moving blaze broke out around 8 a.m. Sunday in the two-story stucco row house in the city's Kensington neighborhood. All five children in the home died from smoke inhalation and burns, medical examiner's office spokesman Jeff Moran said Monday.

Fire officials said that they were hampered in their rescue efforts by security bars mounted to windows on the first floor, and that extensive wood paneling through the home may have fueled the flames. It remained unclear whether the home was outfitted with working smoke detectors, Williams said.

Shannon Bowers, 24, was in critical but stable condition at Temple University Hospital, where she was being treated for severe burns. Her boyfriend, Lester Cooke, was treated and released from the hospital Sunday. They both escaped by jumping from a second-floor window and landing in a children's wading pool on the sidewalk.

The children were identified by the Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office as Bowers' three children, Summer, 5; Samantha, 4; and Sabrina, 22 months; Cooke's niece, Amber Johnson, 3; and Cooke's nephew, Reginald Reinggold, 1.

Brian McBride, president-elect of Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union Local 22, said the tragedy should send a clear message to lawmakers that proposed fire department budget cuts could have disastrous consequences.

Mayor John F. Street proposed last year to close some engine and ladder companies to save the city nearly $7 million annually. Local 22 obtained a court injunction that has blocked the changes.

''This could have claimed even more lives if those closures had taken effect,'' McBride said as mourners added to the pile of hundreds of stuffed animals and flowers placed outside the charred house on Monday. ''Public safety and firefighter safety should not be sacrificed.''

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