Man killed, firefighter injured in Kensington blaze

KENSINGTON - November 3, 2011 A 71-year-old man is dead tonight, after fire swept through his Kensington home, and investigators say the home didn't have a working smoke alarm.

Philadelphia fire crews made a forced entry inside the three-story Kensington building shortly after midnight Thursday on the 1800 block of North Front Street. Firefighters encountered heavy flames and thick smoke, but were able to place the fire under control in just over twenty minutes.

Upon searching the second floor crews discovered a 70-year-old man who had perished.

In what had become all too familiar a scene in Philadelphia, firefighters gave out smoke alarms in a neighborhood where a 70 year old man died.

He lived at 1810 North Front Street and became the city's 28th fire victim this year.

Battlalion Chief Anthony Hudgins tells Action News, "This was actually Philadelphia's 28th fire death for this year. Last year at the same time we had 25 fire deaths."

One firefighter suffered burns to his legs while fighting the blaze. He was transported to Temple University Hospital where he is listed in stable condition.

A smoke alarm was found on the second floor, but authorities say it was not set up properly.

"We found one smoke alarm inside of [the home], the smoke alarm had a battery inside. But the smoke alarm did not activate because the battery wasn't in place," explained Chief Hudgins.

"We believe that if that battery had been properly installed, not taken away from the contacts as they found it, then at least this gentleman would have had an early warning," says Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

The fire in the Kensington row home broke out just after midnight on the first floor. Firefighters were hampered by iron gates and a lot of clutter inside the house. They say only a narrow path led to the second floor where the victim was found.

Police have yet to release an ID, but neighbors called him R.C.

"I am so sorry for that loss, for that life," said neighbor Mercedes Feliciano. "He was a human being. He wasn't associated with anyone, but he was a human being."

The cause of this fire remains under investigation.

Smoke detectors were handed out and even installed for residents. Over 140 thousands of devices have been distributed since the program began in 1998.

Officials are encouraging people to change the batteries in their smoke detectors this weekend when they turn back their clocks.

"We ask you to have one on every level. They have to be working, and they have to be tested," says Commissioner Ayers.

The Philadelphia Fire Department says if you can't afford a smoke alarm, you can get help by calling the Smoke Alarm Hotline at 215-686-1176 or check the website.

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