Authorities: Philadelphia Boy Who Died In Fire Was Playing With Matches

A 3-year-old boy playing with matches died yesterday in a rowhouse fire. It was the second fatal fire in Philadelphia in two days.

Neither home was equipped with smoke detectors.

Fire Department officials responded to Modena Drive near Amity Road around 5:30 p.m. yesterday. The one-alarm fire already had engulfed the second-story bedroom where the little boy was trapped in a closet.

Deputy Chief Tom Garrity said the child had crawled to the back of a large closet, where shelves collapsed on him. The victim's name was not immediately released yesterday.

Five other people, one adult and four children, were also in the house at the time but made it out before firefighters arrived.

Friends of the family said the boy's grandmother ran upstairs when she smelled smoke but the room was already filled with flames.

Neighbors Tom Dott and Hector Ruiz rushed into the flaming home to try to save the boy, but said the smoke at the top of the stairs had been too thick to proceed any farther.

"I was out on my deck and smelled smoke, and at first I thought someone was barbecuing," Ruiz said. "But then I smelled more smoke, and I knew it was some kind of fire so I ran over."

The two men said they could not see past the top of the stairs or hear any shouts for help coming from the room.

Firefighters arrived shortly after. The fire was contained in about 25 minutes, but firefighters were unable to rescue the youngster.

"He was a great kid, very quiet, always smiling...," said Dott, who has known the boy's family since they moved in about five years ago.

Neighbors milled around last night as family members and friends sorted through the charred debris heaped in the driveway.

"Everything was in that room," said Adson Nunes, 30, a friend of the boy's grandmother. "They lost pictures, documents, everything."