Philadelphia Fire Claims Life of a Mother and Her Three Children

According to AP News, a mother and her three children died in a Philadelphia house fire on September 5, 2020. Fire crews responded to a house fire just before 8:00 a.m. The fire was in a row home in the Kensington neighborhood.

When crews arrived, they found smoke and flames coming from the first and second floors of the home. Sixty first responders worked to control the fire. 

Once crews were able to get inside the home, they found a 35-year-old woman downstairs. Crews discovered the three children, ages 9, 11, and 17, upstairs. 

All four victims were pronounced dead at the scene. The city medical examiner will determine the final cause of death for each victim. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

House Fires Cause Thousands of Deaths in the United States Each Year

There were 379,600 residential fires in 2018 that caused 2,790 deaths and 11,525 injuries. The financial loss from residential fires totaled over $8.1 billion in 2018.

From 2009 to 2018, there has been a four percent increase in the number of residential house fires in the United States. Deaths from residential house fires increased by 13 percent, while injuries decreased by 19 percent.

The leading cause of house fires is cooking. Cooking accounted for 192,700 of residential fires in 2018. The second leading cause of residential fires was heating, with 35,700 fires.

Common causes of house fires include:

  • Cooking
  • Heating
  • Electrical malfunction
  • Unintentional carelessness
  • Christmas trees and lights
  • Smoking
  • Candles
  • Defective equipment
  • Utility explosions
  • Appliances
  • Intentional arson

Depending on the cause of a fire, the victims and their families may have a claim against one or more parties for damages. Victims may file a personal injury claim seeking damages for injuries and losses. A family may seek compensation for damages by filing a wrongful death lawsuit.

Potential parties who might be liable for damages caused by a house fire include the property owner, landlord, tenant, utility company, or manufacturer of a defective product

Preventing House Fires in Pennsylvania

A person does not need to come into contact with flames to die in a house fire. The heat from a fire can reach 600 degrees at eye level. The air can scorch the lungs and melt clothes to your skin.

The toxic gasses and smoke caused by the fire kill more people in house fires than flames do. The gas makes you drowsy and disoriented very quickly, making getting out of the house even more difficult. Asphyxiation is the leading cause of death in house fires.

Ready.gov advises that families need to create a fire escape plan. It suggests that you practice the fire escape plan at least two times each year. Fire escape plans should include:

  • Two ways to escape from each room in the house
  • Have collapsible ladders for escaping from second-story windows
  • Ensure that windows are not stuck
  • Make sure that escape routes are not blocked
  • Practice the escape route with your eyes closed or with blindfolds because you may not be able to see during a house fire, even during the day
  • Make sure that you have working smoke alarms throughout your home, including on all levels of your home and outside of sleeping areas
  • Having working fire extinguishers throughout the house, especially in the kitchen

Practicing the escape plan decreases the chance that you might panic during an actual fire and forget what you need to do to save yourself and your family members.

If your home catches on fire, immediately enact your fire escape plan. Stay low to the ground and crawl to an exit. 

Before opening any doors, touch the door and the doorknob to see if it is warm. If the door is hot or smoke is coming in the room from around the door, use your secondary exit. If you must open the door, open the door slowly and be ready to shut it quickly.

If you cannot get to someone, get outside and call 911. Tell the emergency operator that someone is trapped inside the home. 

In the event you cannot get out of the home, cover vents, and close the door to the room. Call 911 and tell the operator you are trapped inside the home and where you are located in the home. Place a signal in a window, such as a colorful item of clothing.

If your clothing catches on fire, stop immediately. Drop to the ground and roll around to put out the flames. 

You can find more information about preventing house fires and what to do in case of a house fire on the websites for Ready.Gov or the Pennsylvania Office of the State Fire Commissioner.