City Releases 911 Tapes in SW Philly Fire

Liberian ambassador visits the scene of fatal blaze.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer pauses while speaking during a news conference after weekend fire tore through 10 row homes and killed four children just steps from a firehouse, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer pauses while speaking during a news conference after weekend fire tore through 10 row homes and killed four children just steps from a firehouse, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

City officials on Tuesday continued to battle allegations that fire crews were slow to respond to Saturday’s deadly blaze in Southwest Philly, releasing 911 tapes to back their point. Meanwhile, the Liberian ambassador to the United States visited the scene of the fire, which took place in a part of the city populated largely by immigrants from his country.

Saturday’s fire killed four young children, and on Monday sparked a protest from neighborhood members who criticized the response of fire crews.


CBS Philly reports on the tapes:

In one of the calls, an unidentified man tells dispatchers, “somebody’s couch is on fire, out on the porch, connected to a house though.”

Fire dispatchers then sent a single engine company to the fire, classified as a rubbish fire, but two minutes later the assignment was upgraded to a full first alarm assignment bringing extra equipment.

Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer revealed the first ladder company, Ladder 4, a block away, was on the scene in 21 seconds. All other companies in less than five minutes.

The Inquirer explains:

Deputy Mayor Everett Gillison said at an afternoon news conference that the city was releasing recordings of the calls - as well as a second-by-second account of the response to the blaze - to address misinformation that firefighters had been slow to respond.

NBC 10 report on the visit of the Liberian ambassador:

When Liberian Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh walked through the scene of the deadly fire on the 6500 block of Gesner Street late Tuesday, he said he felt the full weight of the tragedy that occurred on the Southwest Philadelphia block.

"I feel very, very horrible," he said while standing on the charred porch of 6518 Gesner. "I feel like I was also part of this thing. I feel like that day I was sitting here when four innocent little children died; not at their campus, not at their daycare, but at their home."

The goal of his visit, Sulunteh said, was to get to the bottom of the cause of the fire, find a working solution to prevent similar tragedies from occurring, and to keep members of the Liberian community calm.

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  • phillysportsfan

    “Fire dispatchers then sent a single engine company to the fire,
    classified as a rubbish fire, but two minutes later the assignment was
    upgraded to a full first alarm assignment bringing extra equipment.

    Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer revealed the first
    ladder company, Ladder 4, a block away, was on the scene in 21 seconds.
    All other companies in less than five minutes.”

    did they also put the fire out before it spread and save all the children?

    • glenzo

      Obviously not but that is not always possible. Fire is a brute volatile force…not even man can keep control of it under certain circumstances

  • Enuf already

    Here’s the main focus which is not being discussed:
    (1) someone started that fire
    (2) who was present when it started and what did they do
    (3) where were the parents and any adults with 4 children of this age at home
    (4) I heard that the mother ran out the back and yet didn’t grab one of the children. I have a dog believe me he’ll be the first thing I grab in any emergency. if I had children, I’d feel even more strongly and if I didn’t have all I’d have some and if not you’d be pulling me out with them
    (5) Why the immediate need for violence, mob mentality without finding out the facts
    (6) The protestors should be confronting the parents or adults that were at the scene when this started and ask them to account for their actions. How many of them were there and did nothing?
    Personal accountability, responsibility. Tired of everyone pointing the finger at the next looking for free money from the city, government.
    Come on Mayor get a set though you stated (1) ……enough is enough
    4 innocent children paid the price for the lack of parental/adult accountability. Still blows my mind that at least some weren’t saved by a parent/adult on site.

    • Jen

      Agree that there should be more focus on how the fire started (so far rumors are fireworks) but I think currently, the city is defending their actions without slinging back at the community, which is reacting out of hurt… they’ve lost 4 children. You condemn the protesters for jumping to conclusions 1 bullet point after you did the exact same thing. This mother lost children. I heard information that she grabbed children but wasn’t able to get to all of them. What I heard may not be true, just as what you heard may not be true. For you to jump into a forum and criticize a woman who LOST CHILDREN without having any real knowledge of the situation is disgusting, honestly. I guess you love your dog more than this woman loved her kids. High horse.

  • Fsh_Town

    I’ve witnessed quite a few bad accidents and various emergencies in Philly. In most cases, the fire trucks arrived on scene before ambulances, and sometimes even before the first cop car. The fact that those guys can gear up, head out, and get somewhere 10 or 15 city blocks away before the nearest beat cop can even make it on scene is nothing short of amazing. I’ve had my disagreements with the cops of this city in the past, but every interaction I’ve ever had with Philly firefighters has been overwhelmingly positive and reinforced my opinion that they are genuine heroes. This was a tragedy but certainly could have been worse… the rioting, mob violence, reflects more poorly on the Liberian community than Philly firefighters IMO