Apartment fire displaces 14 in Northern Liberties

Posted: December 24, 2012

The fire alarms in the three-story Northern Liberties apartment building go off all the time.

But Kimberly Hollingsworth, 34, has two school-age children, and when she was awakened shortly after 3 a.m. Saturday, she decided to check the hallway anyway.

"It was just dark, black space" filled with smoke, she said. "This is it. I thought me and my kids were going to die, pretty much."

Hollingsworth and her fiancé grabbed her two children and rushed out of their third-floor unit to the fire escape. They had time to get dressed and grab their cat, Niko, she said.

She figured everything else was a lost cause: clothes, Christmas presents, 10 years of possessions and memories.

As firefighters arrived in the 600 block of Perth Place at 3:30, the family of four went to a community center where they were met by workers from the Salvation Army and American Red Cross.

The fire was under control in 20 minutes, officials said, and remains under investigation.

"I just wanted for me and my kids to have a roof over our heads," Hollingsworth said Saturday afternoon, sitting in her room at the Red Cross House.

The family was lucky, she said, tears rolling down her face. Her fiancé, Kenneth Thompson, 34, was allowed back into the apartment hours later to retrieve things, including clothes and presents.

The family Christmas at Hollingsworth's mother's home nearby will go on as planned. Her two daughters, Ameerah White, 15, and Kiara White, 12, will still receive presents and play with their cousins Tuesday.

And the next day, if things go as planned, they will all be able to move into another Philadelphia Housing Authority apartment near their old one.

Hollingsworth said the agency had arranged for them to move into a new unit Wednesday. Ameerah and Kiara won't have to change schools, she said, and she was also lucky to have taken time off from her housekeeping job.

Still, the two girls lost the home they grew up in.

"It's pretty much like you have to start over," Ameerah said, clutching a pink hat she chose from Red Cross supplies. "It's going to be weird, transitioning to a new home."

Meanwhile, they'll stay in the Red Cross House, where displaced families have private bedrooms and get three meals a day.

Two other families displaced by the fire are also at the house, director Chad Dion Lassiter said. Two more families found other places to stay; a total of 14 people were displaced.

"Right now it doesn't feel that way, but it'll be OK," he consoled Hollingsworth.


Contact Jonathan Lai

at 856-779-3220, jlai@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @elaijuh.

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