The community in Southwest Philadelphia is mourning the deaths of four children early Saturday in a fire that destroyed eight homes. Four-year-old twins Maria and Marialla Bowah died, along with four-year-old Patrick Sanyeah and his 1-month-old brother, Taj Ja-Quee.
Witnesses tell NBC10 they heard firecrackers go off around 2:30 a.m. on Saturday. They then noticed a yellow glow that quickly turned into a full-fledged fire, engulfing a couch on the porch of 6516 Gesner St.
One witness, Jeff Boone, says he called 911 and ran screaming down the street to wake up his neighbors. He was making his way to the firehouse just around the corner when he heard cries for help from young children trapped inside 6518 Gesner St.
“I heard them in there screaming,” Boone said. “The flames were so high and intense that I couldn’t go over there.”
The victims were with the mother of the twins when the fire started on an outside couch, which spread to four homes by the time firefighters showed up.
Neighbors say the mother got some of her kids to safety; however, she couldn’t get everyone and had to jump from an upstairs window to save her life.
That’s just part of the story that compelled a group of friends to drive up from Wilmington Delaware and lay teddy bears down at a growing memorial.
Rumors continued to circulate Sunday that a firecracker landed on a couch on a porch and started the blaze, first reported at 2:40 a.m. as a rubbish fire, but officials said they had not pinpointed the cause.
“We have not been able to confirm those rumors at this time,” Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.