2 children dead, 8 hospitalized in Olney fire

February 22, 2011 7:49:04 PM PST
Two young boys are dead, 8 people remain hospitalized, and fire officials are trying to determine a cause after a deadly blaze in Olney.

Four of those who are still hospitalized as of Tuesday night are children and two of whom are fighting for their lives.

While the cause of the fire remains under investigation, fire officials say there did not appear to be any working fire alarms in the first and second floors.

The fire broke out in a row home on the 100 block of Sparks Street just before noon.

"Flames were coming out of the house like unbelievable," neighbor John Sanders said.

Chopper 6 captured the smokey blaze that spread to two adjacent row homes before firefighters were able to bring it under control 43 minutes later.

Neighbors say there were children trapped inside, but there was nothing they could do.

"We couldn't get close to the house cause the flames were coming out, shooting from all over," Sanders said.

Fire officials say they found the bodies of two boys, 9 and 7-years-old, in a second floor bedroom.

8 others, four children and four adults, were rushed to Einstein and Temple University hospitals. The children range in age from 2-months to 10-years-old.

Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Lloyd Ayers remarked on the question of smoke detectors to reporters during the investigation.

"Neighbors, as well as firefighters, say that they heard no smoke alarms. I went through the whole place myself and it's impossible to know if there were smoke alarms on the first and second level," Ayers said.

Neighbors and union officials say the closest firehouse, Engine 61 which is 1.2 miles away on Rising Sun Avenue, was closed today due to mandated brown outs.

"If that first in engine company, located in Rising Sun [Avenue], was in service there would have been water quicker on this fire, much quicker, maybe half the time," Bill Gault, the President of the Firefighters Union Local 22, said.

The first unit to arrive was Engine 51, which is a little farther out at Broad and Champlost streets.

"Maybe if that fire department was opened today, it could've got here a little faster, but when the firemen got here, they did a well job trying to get in there," Sanders said.

Commissioner Ayers says the first engine responded in less than five minutes.

"Engine 51, however, did respond and responded within our expectations, they were here a little less than five minutes as we expect," Ayers said.

At first, officials thought the row home was being operated as some sort of illegal boarding home, but neighbors say, it was a large Cambodian family living there.

Investigators do say they found a large amount of extension cords being used throughout the home, which may have contributed to the fire.