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An early morning fire on Wednesday claimed the lives of 12 people when it tore through a Fairmount rowhome. Owned by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, the house held two apartments, and several families were affected. Among those who died were eight children.
“We are devastated by the tragic loss of life,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, “and my thoughts are with the families and loved ones of the victims. I cannot express how unimaginable this is for loved ones.”
The city confirmed 36 calls had been made to 911 regarding the fire at 869 N. 23rd St., starting just after 6:30 a.m., and said firefighters were on scene by 6:40 a.m. Investigations into the immediate and underlying causes of the blaze — and why it was so deadly — will continue for days, weeks, and possibly months. But the first thing on most people’s minds is how to help the survivors.
Red Cross was also giving immediate emergency assistance to the family, a spokesperson confirmed to Billy Penn, but is not accepting donations for the cause. The Bache-Martin Home and School Association is no longer collecting material donations for the family, but has launched a new mutual aid fund to take donations for people who need support (more info here).
A couple of other groups are coordinating ways to offer financial help. We’ll keep this page updated. If you hear of more credible fundraisers or ways to help, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fund for the School District of Philadelphia
Many of the children living in the rowhome were students in Philly. Bache-Martin had several, including four who died — two former students and two current — and three who escaped, according to Jerilyn Dressler, board president of the school’s friends group.
The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia, the fundraising nonprofit that has an official relationship with the district, set up this donation page via its Family Support Fund.
Children First (formerly PCCY)
This organization with four decades of experience helping Philly kids has never before set up a fundraiser after a specific incident, according to communications director Amy Kobeta, and they didn’t have connections with the children killed. But when the staff of 24 heard about the tragedy, it felt like the right thing to do.
“there’s so much going on in the world right now that we can’t get involved with, you know? We can’t end gun violence. We can’t resolve the budget in one fell swoop,” Kobeta said. “What is what’s a small way that we can step in? This just seemed like a nice way to be able to do that.”
After Children First executive director Donna Cooper gave the go ahead, they set up a donation form on EveryAction. In its first few hours, it raised $500. Soon after The Inquirer posted an article featuring it, the count was $5,000 and growing fast, Kobeta said.
You can make an online donation to the fund here. The organization pledges that 100% of proceeds will go to the families of the victims.
Anton Moore of ‘Unity in the Community’
Longtime community activist and organizer Anton Moore posted on his Instagram that clothing is needed by survivors. The president of nonprofit Unity in the Community, Moore said he’s collecting the supplies after the family reached out for help. The list of needed items includes specific sizes for clothing and shoes of five people.
There are several GoFundMe pages set up to take donations. Note: A spokesperson from GoFundMe described the first three listed below as “verified.” You still may want to use caution unless you know the people involved.
One page was set up by Andrea Brunson to benefit “the parents/grandparents of the deceased” and to help with funeral arrangements. Brunson responded to a note from Billy Penn: “I am a direct family member, this is real,” she wrote. “Our family appreciates your condolences and thank you for any resources you may have to help us during this difficult time.”
Another page is credited to the North Philly League of Voters, which is an organization that shows up on the campaign finance filings of local candidates. “They’re going through pain and suffering,” the fundraiser says. “We hope that what we get from this page will comfort them when they come down from this numbness that they’re feeling.
A third was set up by Tim McAdams and supports a man named Howard, described as a father who lived in the rowhome with several of his children. He escaped, the page says, but had just gotten over heart surgery and is now again injured due to the fire. The campaign is to help support him and his son while he is out of work.
A page was set up by Debra Jackson to support her sister, who Jackson says lived in the destroyed duplex with her daughter and three grandsons. All survived, but have now lost “everything they own.”