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Christmas tree behind fire that killed 12 in Philadelphia, officials confirm

Philadelphia rowhouse Fire
Posted at 5:58 PM, Jan 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-11 17:58:04-05

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Investigators of a Philadelphia rowhouse fire that killed 12 family members say they are left with the words of "a traumatized 5-year-old child" as they piece together how a lighter ignited a nearby Christmas tree.

Commissioner Adam Thiel hesitated to point blame at a news conference Tuesday but said the boy was the only person on that floor.

A search warrant earlier showed the boy told several people he was playing with the lighter when the tree caught fire.

Thiel says none of the six smoke alarms inside the two-story unit were working.

Family members say the fire Wednesday killed three sisters and nine of their children.

Four adults were also killed in the fire.

Originally the fire department said the home's smoke alarms were not operational.

However, CBS News reported that the Philadelphia Housing Authority, which owns the home, said 13 detectors were working during an inspection in May 2021.

26 people had been staying in the two apartments, officials said.

Officials said it's the city's deadliest single blaze in more than a century.