'He's a hero': Neighbor helps family escape burning home during deadly Nicetown fire

6abc Digital Staff Image
Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Neighbor helps family escape burning Nicetown home
A row home caught fire in Philadelphia's Nicetown neighborhood early Wednesday morning, leaving one man dead and several others injured.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A 62-year-old man was killed and eight others were injured, including children, in a house fire in Philadelphia's Nicetown section early Wednesday morning. A woman also had to jump from a second-story window to escape the fire.

The fire broke out in the 1900 block of Dennie Street at 2:30 a.m., prompting neighbors to jump into action.

Crews arrived to find heavy flames coming from the middle of the home.

Firefighters said an 18-year-old mother and her one-month-old baby were among the victims rescued by a next-door neighbor, who pulled them into his home through the 3rd-floor window.

"I heard a knock in my dream like it was at the door, and it was really at my window, 'let us in, let us in,'" said neighbor Marchant-Cartier Johnson.

Johnson said he woke up and realized the row home next door was on fire.

The people in that home were able to bang on his third-floor window since the windows were close to each other. They had nowhere else to go as the fire burned below.

Johnson said he pulled them into his home through the window.

"But one of my windows has security bars, so I had to pull them in through the smallest window. That was pretty difficult, but it was about helping everybody. First the kids and then the adults," Johnson said.

The first child firefighters said he rescued was a one-month-old baby. Johnson said the child's mother handed the baby to him.

"Then we took a three-year-old, then we took a five-year-old and probably a seven-year-old and two adults," Johnson added.

"When [firefighters] got here, they encountered heavy fire on the first floor, three-story middle-of-the-row property and heavy smoke throughout the property," said assistant fire chief Harry Bannan.

Firefighters tell Action News a woman in her 30s jumped from a back window and that they found her with serious injuries.

They also said a 62-year-old man died in the fire. He was found on the first floor where firefighters believe it may have started.

In all, officials say 11 to 12 people were inside the home.

Neighbors are praising Johnson for not only helping to save lives, but also providing clothes to help keep the victims warm.

"First of all, he's a hero. I tip my hat to him," said neighbor Domingo Gonzalez. "That's just insane. Third floor, you're transporting babies and adults -- 6, 7 of them -- and you're clothing them. Dude, he's a hero."

"I had no feelings, no nothing. Just reaction, looking at the kids and instinct," Johnson said. "Just kids, kids, kids."

Officials tell Action News that eight victims are being treated at area hospitals.

A 33-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman are listed in critical condition.

Firefighters said they did not hear any smoke alarms when they arrived and are working to determine how the fire started.