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Liberian Ambassador Visits Scene Of Fatal Fire In Southwest Philadelphia

CBS 3 Speaks With Neighbor Who Tried To Put Out The Flames
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Todd Quinones joined CBS 3 as a general assignment reporter in J...
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By Todd Quinones

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — For the first time, CBS 3 is hearing directly from the eyewitness who first spotted the flames of Saturday’s fatal fire in Southwest Philadelphia (see previous story).

He says it was a very fast moving fire, and he’s not sure if there was anything firefighters could’ve done.

(Dispatch:) “Four houses?”

(Caller:) “Four houses. Four houses are on fire.”

(Dispatch:) “Four houses on fire.”

By the time that frantic 911 call was made, neighbor Jeff Boone said he had already tried putting the fire out with his sister’s own fire extinguisher.

When that failed, he ran around the corner to the firehouse to get the firefighters’ attention.

“They were already in the motion of loading up, they get in their trucks, I’m in the middle of the street screaming, ‘yo, come on, follow me, follow me,'” he said. “By the time I ran, came around here, came back, it had to already been like three houses going up.”

The fallout from the deadly fire that killed four young children boiled over Monday night as friends, family members and neighbors argued the fire department did not act fast enough (see related story).

But that was an assertion that was strongly rebuffed by the Fire Commissioner and the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Tuesday evening, who laid out the Fire Department’s response time (see previous story).

“I can understand what the community feels, but I think that it comes from misunderstanding what our heroes did,” Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison said.

“You cannot get there quicker than a minute.  That’s not humanly possible. Now you’re asking our heroes to be superheroes,” Fire Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.

In direct response to Monday’s clash with police, the Liberian Ambassador came to the scene on the 6500 block of Gesner Street Tuesday night.

He asked for calm as he promised to search for answers.

“This is something horrible that happened. We’d like to see what went wrong. What was the cause. How did it happen, ” Liberian Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh said.

A woman who refers to herself as the godmother of the twin girls who were killed says she wants to see more firefighters hired at the fire station.

“We are so hurt for how these kids died, in a short time,” Roselyn Hawa-Gray said.

The fire station is just around the corner from where the fire happened.

Some neighbors say even after firefighters first arrived, it still took several minutes for the fire department to put water on the fire.

The timing of that still remains under investigation.

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