At a news conference Tuesday, Commissioner Thiel said investigators found seven smoke alarms in the unit after the fire. Four were found in the drawers; One was found on the ground, its battery removed; Another was attached to the roof, and its battery was removed. The seventh alarm in the basement shared by the two units was activated, but its warnings came too late, as to how quickly the fire had spread to the upper floors.
The city also released the names of those who died on Tuesday. Three adults, Rosalie McDonald, Virginia Thomas and Queenshaw White, died. Children are Tequin Robinson, Destiny McDonald, Jania Roberts, Jay Quan Robinson, Natasha Wayne, Quinton Date-McDonald, Shanis Wayne, Tanisha Robinson and Tiffany Robinson. According to the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office, everyone died from secondhand smoke.
The tragedy brought renewed attention to the acute shortage of low-income households in the city and across the country. The waiting list for new public housing in Philadelphia, the most populous city below the poverty line, is 40,000 homes and has been closed for almost a decade.
The extended family relocated to the Rowhouse apartment in 2011. Since the emigration, the number of tenants has risen from six to 14 as families have grown. Housing officials say no one in the apartment has formally requested a new location, although some members of the family have told friends and social workers they want to move.
City officials insisted that Philadelphia’s housing be upgraded to modern and modern safety standards, meaning smoke alarms are installed directly inside the building. Kelvin Jeremiah, director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, said it would cost a considerable amount of money, which the agency did not have.
“This incident, in fact, highlights the fundamental fact that there is an affordable housing crisis in the city,” he said Tuesday.
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