Outside a fire station in Philadelphia, Patrick Sanyeah, a grieving father, screamed in protest and placed blame for the deaths of four kids on the firefighters who battled the blaze they died in. After eight homes were destroyed in a devastating block fire, protesters in Philly screamed, “Murder!”
— PhillyFireNews.com (@PhillyFireNews) July 8, 2014
Patrick Sanyeah’s four-year-old son, Patrick, died in an inferno on Saturday. He was heard screaming, “These people let our kids burn to ashes.” He reportedly screamed the same sentiment at the firefighters. According to Philly.com, over 50 Philadelphia police officers tried to diffuse the protest which “teetered on the edge of chaos for several hours.” The protesters were furious and grieving. They cited a delayed response time to the fire as the cause of the deaths of four children which ended up destroying ten homes. The crowd blocked the fire station.
Here are Resnick and Hudgins trying to reason with some of the group. They say the fire trucks can’t get out now. pic.twitter.com/d6YcjWNqZK
— Morgan Zalot (@morganzalot) July 8, 2014
Director of Public Safety Mike Resnick told the crowd, “For the protection of the community, we want these police officers back on the street doing what they do best. We want this fire station back open.” Firefighters worried about another potential disaster if a fire broke out and the engines had to make their way through a mob of angry people from Southwest Philly.
— George Spencer (@georgehspencer) July 8, 2014
“‘I understand they want to be heard. That’s their right,’ said Lt. Joe Galie of the 12th District. ‘They have every right to peacefully protest. But the Fire Department may have to get out’ to answer a fire call.”
At 2:40 in the morning, during Fourth of July festivities, the fire broke out. Unconfirmed reports say the cause of the fire was a firecracker that landed on a couch on a porch. The adjacent homes were engulfed as the fire spread over wooden porch overhangs. The first call was made four minutes later at 2:44, just two seconds before 2:45. The first firefighters on the scene had dispatched themselves before the fire was even entered into the system.
Mayor Nutter, at a press conference, said that the firefighter’s response time was excellent and that the protesters were spreading “lies and innuendo.”
The fire department said they will release the 9-1-1 call tapes, stating they did everything they could to battle the blaze. In all, 100 firefighters battled the block fire for 90 minutes before it was extinguished. The early morning fire took the lives of four kids: Patrick, four-year-old twin sisters Marialla and Maria Bowah, and a one-month-old infant named Taj Jacque.
— 6abcBreaking (@6abcBreaking) July 8, 2014
The protesters accused the fire department of not caring about their neighborhood because of its large immigrant population. Patrick Sanyeah said, “We pay taxes too.” He added, “They let four kids die.” Fire Commissioner Sawyer said that, while there was a small lag time in dispatching, it was only because when the call came in it was reported as a rubbish fire. Still, he says that the response time was still outstanding. He said the second call at 2:47 was called in as a four-house fire. Two minutes after that call, Ladder 4 was on the scene. Two minutes after that, Engine 40 arrived at the scene. He added the firefighters would never be lax with their responsibilities. He made it clear that the firefighters that arrived at 2:46, before the fire had been entered into the system, had dispatched themselves. They were on the scene of the block fire less than two minutes after the very first call.
— PhillyFireNews.com (@PhillyFireNews) July 8, 2014
On social media, the public and public response workers are defending the Philadelphia firefighters. Ben Serfass said:
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a more aggressive group of companies than the West Philly companies (h***, any company in the city). We don’t sit around twiddling thumbs when the CAD goes off. It’s usually a dog fight to be first in! 10 houses don’t become fully involved in 3 minutes, nor double that. It is classic that they pull the ‘I pay taxes’ and the race card. Fact is, we don’t give a sh!t whether you paid taxes, are black, are white, hispanic, or green! When your a** is on the line we’re coming to help and might even die for you. END OF STORY. God bless the Junkyard Dogs!”
Joseph Campo argues that the families are trying to move blame away from themselves. He said, “Kids were home alone at 0230 in the morning and ‘They (Firefighters) let them die?’ Horse crap. Look at the report and time it took for the FD to arrive on scene. Blame your self. Maybe you should’ve been a parent. Are you trying to place blame or to show grief?” My Fox Philly reported that the fire’s victims – the four kids – were all with the mother of the twins that died in the fire. The fire began on a couch that was outside. The neighbors said that the twin’s mother was able to get some of her kids out of the house safely, but she couldn’t get the other four out in time. She ended up jumping from a window to save her own life.
A fire dispatcher from another district said, “Don’t u know it’s never the parents fault. It’s always someone else’s.”
Officials: investigating whether neighbors' attempts to fight fire themselves delayed calling "911" to report deadly SW Phila. fire live 6
— Walt Hunter (@WaltHunterCBS3) July 8, 2014
Fire commissioner Derrik Saywer defended the firefighters. He said that, while it is tragic that the four kids perished, no one could ask for a better response time. “That’s not humanly possible,” he said. “You’re asking our heroes to be superheroes.”
At the news conference, Mayor Nutter assured the public that it’s “devastating to every one of us that four children died in the fire.” He added that while everything indicated that the firefighters could have done nothing differently, out of respect for the four kids that died, there would be a full investigation.
[Photo via Philly Fire News on Facebook]