Arson task force investigates alleged firebombing in Germantown

 This Germantown front porch was the scene of an alleged firebombing early Monday morning. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

This Germantown front porch was the scene of an alleged firebombing early Monday morning. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

If not for a smoke-stained door, an American Red Cross van across the street and worries about gasoline on the sidewalk and curbline, it’d be hard to tell that two children and six adults nearly died near East Coulter and Lena streets just seven hours ago.

But, that’s exactly what happened when an unknown arsonist ignited a fire on the front porch of a home at that intersection around 3:45 a.m. Monday.

Official details

According to Philadelphia Fire Department Executive Chief Clifford Gilliam, the call from a three-story home in the unit block of E. Coulter St. came in at 3:46 a.m., firefighters were on the scene three minutes later and the blaze was under control by 3:54 a.m.

According to residents milling about the corner just before 11 a.m., that call was made after they heard an explosive “boom” and then saw smoke coming under the front door and in the upstairs windows.

The eight people inside at the time escaped after a quick-thinking resident put the fire out with a fire extinguisher, his mother said.

While he was inside the house later Monday morning, residents said they didn’t want to discuss the fire on account of what they termed inaccurate reports that a previous neighborhood fight led to the Monday morning arson.

They said there was negligible damage inside and no injuries were reported among the residents and firefighters called to the scene.

Gilliam told NewsWorks that the incident remained under investigation by a task force that includes the Fire Marshal’s Office, police-department detectives and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

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