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Fire horror reveals the need to ‘live and die’ in Philadelphia’s public housing – NBC10 Philadelphia

NBC10 is one of dozens of production news organizations BROKE in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to combat poverty and promote economic equity in the city. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly.

Even though 26 people live there, a three-story house in Philadelphia has burned in a deadly fire 12 people died with no escape route. It is not required to do so, according to the city’s fire code.

Philadelphia does not require fire exits in the city’s one- and two-family homes, spokeswoman Karen Guss said. Also, while newer buildings require sprinkler systems, the one that caught fire — owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority — is exempt because it’s an older construction, Guss said.

The house, divided into two separate apartments, caught fire on Wednesday morning, killing eight children and four adults. Two other people, a child and an adult, were left in a critical condition.

“They would be alive today if they had sprinklers in that building,” said Glenn Corbett, a fire expert. He was the chairman of a blue-ribbon panel that proposed dozens of reforms – including fire safety and prevention measures – following In 2013 the collapse of a Philadelphia Salvation Army building 6 people died and 13 others were injured.

There were six battery-powered smoke detectors installed in the home that caught fire on Wednesday, but none were working at the time of the fire, firefighters said. Kelvin Jeremiah, president and chief executive officer of the PHA, said in a written statement Wednesday that all smoke detectors were in working order when the property was last inspected in May. last year.

The family moved in 2011 and had to move there because their old home was too small, Jeremiah said. Over time, the three daughters had children of their own and the family grew, with three generations living under one roof.

Rental agreement for 20 people in two units. One of the apartments is supposed to hold 14 people, while the second can accommodate six, Jeremiah said.

But while some question why so many people live in the same house, Jeremiah noted the need for affordable housing in the nation’s poorest major city.

“In fact, this is an intact family who have chosen to live together. This is what we do. We are not evicting our family members, our loved ones, who may not have other suitable housing options,” Jeremiah said.

He called the idea of ​​kicking people out because their families were getting bigger a “nonsense.”

Jeremiah said the house that burned down was one of about 4,000 properties that fall under the PHA’s “distributed locations” category. These homes offer low-income families the chance to live in “luxury neighborhoods that are rapidly losing their affordability,” he noted.

The house is located in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, close to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Ben Franklin Park Road, and has been under construction for decades.

Building new public housing or repairing what the PHA already owns is a huge undertaking, says Jeremiah, but it is a vital need of the people.

His agency currently has about $1.5 billion in deferred capital and maintenance needs, Jeremiah said, adding that public housing infrastructure across the country continues to deteriorate due to a lack of funding.

“So while conditions across the country are deteriorating, our family waits and waits and waits. They cannot wait any longer. It has become a question of life and death for too many families, and this unfortunate unthinkable tragedy highlights that in a number of practical ways,” Jeremiah said.

United States Department of Housing and Urban Development determined Affordable housing is housing in which residents spend no more than 30% of their total income on housing costs, including utilities. As of 2019, more than 37 million renters and landlords spent more than 30% of their income on housing, according to HUD.

Jeremiah urges legislators to pass President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion Building Better Back to Society Act, which allocates $170 billion for affordable housing. The bill passed the Democratic-controlled House but stalled in the Senate, where all Republicans and two conservative Democrats – Joe Manchin of Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona – objected. .

Meanwhile, local and federal investigators continue to probe what sparked the fire.

Investigative sources told NBC10 that a child had playing with lighters near the Christmas tree before the fire. Sources say the child escaped by running out of the house and telling investigators the tree was on fire.

Officials on Thursday would not comment on specifics regarding the investigation, although they did hint at a wide-ranging investigation.

“What I can tell you is that this is a resource intensive investigation. It was a special time — the people, the equipment, the commitment — to find the source and cause of this tragedy,” said Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Superintendent Dennis Merrigan.

https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/local/broke-in-philly/fire-horror-shows-life-or-death-needs-in-phillys-public-housing/3100572/ Fire horror reveals the need to ‘live and die’ in Philadelphia’s public housing – NBC10 Philadelphia

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