Fire officials: Nine fatalties this year

Posted: February 21, 2014

AN APARTMENT FIRE in Germantown Thursday was the fourth fatal blaze in the city this week, according to fire officials.

In that incident, a 64-year-old woman was killed after a fire broke out just before 9:30 a.m. in her apartment on Wayne Avenue near Hansberry Street, a Fire Department spokesman said. The cause of the fire was being investigated last night.

Her death was the ninth this year caused by fire, according to fire spokesman Capt. Clifford Gilliam. That figure matches the number of fire deaths in the city as of the same date last year, he said.

The "older population" - which the department defines as residents 50 and older - was most affected: More than half of the 24 people killed by fires last year fit in that demographic, as do three of this week's victims.

In the first incident this week, Anna Williams, 98, died Sunday afternoon in a fire at her home on Poplar Street near 57th in West Philadelphia. The source of the fire was still under investigation last night, officials said.

Monday saw two fatal fires in the city: One just after 5 p.m. on 9th Street near Loudon in Olney that claimed the life of an autistic boy, 14, whom a relative identified as Niem Denby, and another just before midnight on Washington Lane near Baynton Street in Germantown that killed a 84-year-old man identified in property records as William Pendleton.

The Washington Lane fire was started by a portable heater, and the cause of the earlier fire is still unknown, Gilliam said. Neither home had working smoke detectors.

Gilliam said the risk for fires is always greater in the winter, given the increased use of heaters, and that most blazes are easily preventable.

"Of course, the goal is to prevent the fire in the first place, but what's also important is to detect the fire in the early stages and what you do in response," he said.

He stressed the importance of having at least one working smoke detector on each floor of a home, and of educating elderly residents about the risks portable heaters can pose.

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