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Philadelphia Presses Forward With Probe of Deadly Kensington Warehouse Fire

By Mike Dunn

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The aftermath of yesterday’s warehouse blaze in Kensington that claimed the lives of two firefighters (see related stories) continues today on two fronts.

The fire marshal is probing what started the fire, and aides to the mayor are looking at other properties in the city held by the warehouse owners.

Mayor Nutter says the owners of the warehouse — brothers from Brooklyn, NY — own more than thirty other properties in the city.   So, the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections (L&I) is now examining whether similar issues — including failure to board up vacant structures — exist at the other properties.

“I’m told that they are all over the city,” the mayor said, “not anywhere in particular, no strategic locations, just randomly spread across the city of Philadelphia.  We want to know the natures of these properties, their present structural capacity, whether there are any outstanding taxes due, water bills due.  So we will do a full and complete review with regard to their holdings,” Nutter told KYW Newsradio this afternoon.

In fact, the mayor confirms that the brothers owe more than $385,000 in back property taxes, including more than a quarter-million dollars on one of the properties, in the 700 block of Market Street.

(EDITOR’S NOTE:  The City of Philadelphia clarified on April 20th that the owners of the warehouse where the two firefighters died had already entered into payment plans with the city to pay off the back taxes on most of their properties.  See related story)

Meantime, Philadelphia district attorney Seth Williams is awaiting the fire marshal’s determination as to whether the warehouse blaze was intentionally set.

“It’s a tragedy that it happened,” Williams says.  “We have to conduct an investigation to see why it happened, and then once we determine why it happened, we have to determine if anyone is responsible.”

Williams says if warranted, criminal charges could be brought.

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