Reprinted with Permission
PHILADELPHIA - Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers is defending his department's response to a fatal fire that killed a 12 year old autistic boy.
Neighbors say the closest fire station, Engine 57, was closed when the fire erupted Saturday night because of the city's "rolling brownouts." Fire department records indicate firefighters arrived on the scene three minutes after receiving the call. But there are reports the first responder to arrive was actually a battalion chief in an SUV. A fire truck from Engine 68 didn't arrive until several minutes later. That station is just over a mile away from where the fire was burning on South 55th Street.
Commissioner Ayers explained on "Good Day Philadelphia" the nearby crew "left the fire house, went to pick up their equipment. They were actually going to change the apparatus out. That's the reason they were not at the station. But that was a perfectly normal operation." Ayers said "the operation was no different than any other operation that would go on normally during the day or in the evening any place in the city."
Ayers said when firefighters arrived at the burning house it was clear the house had been smoldering for quite a while. "It's just obvious it had been smoldering for some time. It broke out, there was a lot of fire. This fire was not called in immediately after it started." Ayers explained "when firefighters got here they knocked the fire down, they went to rescue this 12 year old boy who had unfortunately lost his life in this fire. Two of our firefighters actually fell through the stairwell trying to come back down after not being able to get to the young boy right away."
"When we stop and we think about there was no early warning in this house. It was smoke alarms, they were not connected properly." Ayers said an adult, possibly the father, struggled to get the boy out of the house. "It sounds like he tried to get him out but just was unsuccessful."
The mother escaped on the roof, the boy was found in the back of the house. Two neighboring homes were also damaged.
Fire Kills Autistic Boy In W. Philly
Authorities say a fire in a West Philadelphia house killed a 12-year-old autistic boy and injured two firefighters and a female resident.
The blaze on South 55th Street was reported shortly before 7 p.m. Saturday and also damaged three other houses, displacing more than a dozen people. Investigators say the boy was found in a second-floor room.
Firefighters were able to rescue a woman from the porch roof, and she was taken to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.
A fire department spokeswoman says two firefighters were also taken to the hospital for treatment of minor injures.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Fire officials say the home had smoke alarms but they were not functioning properly.