They were trapped in the basement of the Port Richmond home. Its four occupants escaped, neighbors said.
Two Philadelphia firefighters were killed last night while battling a blaze in a Port Richmond rowhouse.The firefighters – whose names were not released – were declared dead about 10 p.m. at two hospitals, one at Temple University Hospital, the other at Northeastern Hospital of Philadelphia. Witnesses said that the smoky fire broke out about 8 p.m. and that a family of four lived in the two-story rowhouse in the 3600 block of Belgrade Street. Four fire engines and two ladder companies fought the blaze.Officials said the two firefighters became trapped in the basement and were pulled out by their colleagues.Rose Poscadowski, of the 3600 block of Gaul Street, she saw rescue teams trying to revive the two men with oxygen after they were removed from the house. Then she saw ambulances take them away. “They must be in heaven,” Poscadowski said, “because they died helping someone.” Though the cause of the fire was not known, Poscadowski said that it started in the basement and that smoke billowed from windows in the basement and the rest of the house. Officials said the blaze was declared under control at 9:12 p.m. No other firefighters were seriously hurt. Neighbors told reporters that the four occupants of the home and their two dogs got out safely. Hours after the blaze, a grim-faced Mayor Street and Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson showed up at both hospitals amid crowds of emergency personnel, police officers and other city officials who stopped to offer their support. At a late-night news conference at the Fire Administration Building at Third and Spring Garden Streets, Street was short on details of the fire, but he said a full investigation would be conducted.”This is a terrible, terrible tragedy that took place today,” said Street, who was flanked by members for the Fire Department. “There is nothing more tragic, unsettling or sad than to be at the hospital and see fallen firefighters or police officers who have given their life in the line of duty. These firefighters were our family. They were the city’s family.”The fatalities were the second and third among city firefighters this year. In January, Fire Lt. Derrick Harvey, 45, died after he was critically burned at a one-alarm house fire in Logan. Deputy Fire Commissioner John McGrath said last night’s one-alarm fire was contained in the basement, where the two firefighters entered and later signaled distress. Several firefighters went to their rescue. He said the cause of the blaze was under investigation.
Earlier, at the fire scene, stunned residents lined the street as police cordoned off the block and kept spectators at bay. Jennifer Muckelspon, 19, who lives down the street, said that before the firefighters were stricken, all four members of the family escaped the blaze and were outside the house calling for the pets – a cat, two dogs and a guinea pig. The firefighters tackled the blaze and comforted the family at the same time, she said. The two dogs made it out, Muckelspon added. A mobile Crime Scene Unit, usually brought in when arson is suspected, arrived to help investigate the fire in the house, which had been under extensive renovation, including the basement.