1 dead, several displaced in two Phila. fires

WEST PHILADELPHIA - December 18, 2010

A fire in West Philadelphia claimed the life of a man.

The fire broke out around 2:30 a.m. on the 600 block of South 57th Street in West Philadelphia.

"I heard my daughter screaming, 'Mom, mom, I smelled smoke, get up mom,'" fire victim Azalee Brown said.

Firefighters soon discovered the man who perished on the second floor.

Police say the home was vacant and frequented by squatters and they believe the victim may have been one of them.

The flames spread quickly from porch to porch.

"My brother came to the kitchen and told us the porch was on fire, we couldn't even get out," fire victim Wayne Harper said.

Wayne's family ran to the back door and escaped.

It took just under an hour to bring the fire under control. Investigators found no working smoke detectors in the home where the blaze began.

The Red Cross is reporting five homes were damaged; 10 people have been displaced a week before Christmas.

Just hours earlier, another fast moving fire left seven people homeless in North Philadelphia.

Among the victims are three Temple University students and two children under five.

Firefighters arrived to the 2100 block of North 17th Street just after 11:00 p.m. Friday night.

Flames could be seen shooting out of the home as they spread to adjoining homes on either side.

Crews brought the flames under control just after 11:30 p.m., but remained to extinguish hot-spots.

Investigators believe a hot plate may have sparked this fire.

Authorities responding to the West Philadelphia blaze urge everyone to keep at least one working smoke alarm on each floor and have a practiced escape plan just in case.

The cause of the West Philadelphia fire remains under investigation but is not considered suspicious.

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