Despite criticism, Philadelphia officials say fire department personnel got to the scene of a fatal blaze over the weekend within minutes of getting the 911 calls.
“6517 Gesner St. … four houses are on fire.”
“Four houses are on fire.”
Two 911 calls were played during a Tuesday afternoon briefing to document the exact timeline of the fire department response to the blaze that ripped through 10 houses.
The victims include immigrants from Liberia. One family lost twin 4-year-old girls, while another lost a 4-year-old son and a newborn staying in the house with the twins.
The fire, which broke out early Sunday morning, also displaced dozens of residents.
Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said the first firefighters were on scene in about three minutes and did their best with a blaze that was already out of control.
Residents tried to put out burning couch on the porch with a fire extinguisher instead of calling the fire department immediately, Gillison said.
“I don’t know how long this young man fought the fire … I know he felt he was doing the right thing, ” Gillison said. “I can say, if you see a fire, report the fire. Don’t worry about being a hero, we have heroes.”
As neighbors were calling 911, a firefighter from the station down the street called for reinforcements.
“Do me a favor, upgrade Gesner to a box, please,” he says on the 911 recording. “This is pipeline 40. We just saw across the street, Gesner looks like a couple of houses.
Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said two engines and a ladder truck were on the scene within five minutes. The recording shows how concerned firefighters were about dousing the flames, he said.
“You heard the sense of urgency in his voice, there was no delay, there was none of that … you heard other people say that we’re not coming, we don’t care, None of that,” Sawyer said. “You heard the sense of urgency from him to upgrade the assignment.”
Neighbors have been criticizing the response of firefighters, saying that they answered the call slowly and then arrived without a water truck.
The neighbors have clashed with police and city officials.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.