By Madeleine Wright

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A North Philadelphia community is grieving as investigators work to find out what led to a rowhome fire that killed a father and his three sons. The boys’ mother is the only person who survived the tragedy.

The fire left the Kensington home charred, windows and doors are now boarded up.

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Officials say there were no working smoke detectors in the home at the time of the fire.

According to the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections, the landlord did not have a license to rent the property to the family that lived there, a violation of city code.

Attempts to reach the owners were unsuccessful.

“It appears to me that because it was now under a rent-to-own situation, as the owner claims, he probably felt he was no longer responsible for obtaining a license,” Councilmember Maria Quinones Sanchez said.

Quinones Sanchez, whose district includes Kensington, says it’s part of a growing problem.

“Pre-pandemic, there were a lot of properties that had rental licenses that failed to renew and they create substandard housing conditions for many folks,” she said.

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Investigators haven’t identified anything or anyone as they work to determine the cause of the fire, but a makeshift memorial is growing at the scene of the fire and a photo appears to show the family affected.

On Monday, Eyewitness News saw heartbroken neighbors lighting candles and placing them on a table with flowers, balloons and teddy bears.

A relative of the family says the three boys who died were 4, 9 and 12 years old.

The youngest two were students at the Lewis Elkin Elementary School. Grief counseling was available at the elementary school Monday morning as students cope with the loss of two of their classmates.

Eyewitness News spoke to a neighbor who paid her respects at the memorial Monday morning.

“The kids were so nice to me,” the woman said. “I seen them every day. I just moved down there about three months ago. They didn’t deserve what happened to them, you know? The dad died a hero.”

Neighbors say the boys’ mother was pushed out of a window to survive by the boys’ father. The two have reportedly been inseparable since they were 13.

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“He was a good dad,” Arnaldo Marrero, who is friends with the boys’ father, said. “He loved his family and all that. He was there for his family. It breaks my heart seeing somebody go that was good.”

Madeleine Wright