But the inferno was too intense.
Jenkins died in the two-story, redbrick rowhouse on Chancellor Street near 52nd. Her son, Jayden McClendon, 2, and stepson, Cyncere McClendon, 4, died shortly after arriving at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. And the boys' grandfather Seneca "Chuck" McClendon died at Misericordia Hospital.
Anthony McClendon was so upset, he was taken for medical treatment, relatives said.
It was the latest in a string of heartbreaking fires in the past week, including the monstrous blaze in Kensington that killed two firefighters, and a rowhouse fire that killed a woman and her great-granddaughter on Sunday.
The cause of Monday's fire remains under investigation. Firefighters found no smoke detectors in the home, Executive Chief Richard Davison said.
As firefighters finished their work Monday morning, relatives gathered on 52nd Street to mourn for a family that was a longtime fixture on the block.
Chuck McClendon, a Mississippi native, bought the house in 1982, after living for years in New Orleans and Albany, N.Y., his sister Arcenia McClendon said.
"He was a dynamite cook," she said. "Every holiday, everybody wanted to go to his house [for dinner]. Pan-fried stuffing was his specialty." She added that he also spent a few years cooking for New York's governor, in Albany, decades ago.
In Philly, he worked for the Postal Service, she added. Since he retired, he was a frequent sight riding his bicycle, Thickems said.
He loved having his grandsons underfoot, his niece Daja Forrest said. The preschoolers liked Transformers toys, video games and shows like "Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!"
"Cyncere was so sweet, so full of manners," Thickems said. "Before he would say anything, he'd start: 'Excuse me!' And Jayden, he was just always smiling."
Sitting on a stoop around the corner from her brother's burned house, Arcenia McClendon accepted condolences from well-wishers on a day that she should have been celebrating her 74th birthday. Faith in God kept her eyes dry as she remembered her lost loved ones, she said.
"I'm 74 today," she said. "I've been with the Lord for 75 years. There's a time and a place for everything, and when God does things, there is a reason. That's not for me to know today. Tomorrow, He's going to talk with me. That's why I can be peaceful now."
Contact Dana DiFilippo at 215-854-5934 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @DanaDiFilippo.