Four small children, 4-year old twins Maria and Marialla Bowah, 1-year Taj Jacque, and 4-year old Patrick Sanyeah were killed when 8 row houses in South Philadelphia were destroyed by a fast moving fire that swept through them after beginning in a couch on the porch at around 2:40 Saturday morning. The children were found in a front bedroom of a house belonging to the twins’ mother’s Dewen Bowah. While she was able to save her two other daughters age 11, she could not reach the toddlers before being forced to jump out of a second story window according to witnesses. Both Bowah and the other girls were treated for smoke inhalation. Elenor Jacque, mother of the two little boys was not present when the fire broke out. One neighbor Jeff Boone, who lived five houses away from the Bowah house told the Philadelphia Inquirer that “the flames spread across porches so fast it looked like someone had used a flamethrower on them.”
“This is a tragic, tragic day for the city of Philadelphia. Tragic. We lost four children today. And I want everybody to understand that fire is everyone’s fight. Not just the fire department. It’s everyone’s fight,” Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.
By the time firefighters arrived on the scene about 6 minutes after it was called in, four of the houses were already ablaze, and it quickly spread to the others by way of their wooded porch roofs. Sawyer stated. It was finally brought under control around two hours later, leaving at least 42 people homeless. Temporary shelter has been provided for them by the Red Cross at Bertram High School. Although there was one report that the fire began when a firecracker landed on the couch, Battalion Chief Tony Huggins said the cause is still being investigated.