National investigators called in for Fairmount fire

Fairmount fire 2
Twelve people, including eight children, were killed in the fire.
Philadelphia Fire Department

An elite team of federal investigators has been called in to help uncover the origin of the apartment fire that killed 12 people, including eight children, Wednesday morning in Fairmount.

Officials have not commented or speculated on the cause of the blaze, which broke out in an upstairs unit where there were 18 people at the time. Nothing has been ruled in or out, authorities stressed.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Strike Team has responded to similar disasters around the county and were even deployed to the Sept. 11 attacks and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

“We will hopefully be able to provide a specific origin and cause to this fire and to provide some answers to the loved ones, and really to the city,” said Matthew Varisco, special agent in charge of the ATF’s Philadelphia division.

“There will be no expense spared and no resource not allocated to this specific scene,” he added.

Initially, officials at the scene had said 13 people, including seven children, had perished in the flames; the toll was later revised during the recovery effort.

Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration said 36 people called 911 to report the fire between 6:36 and 6:39 a.m. Wednesday. The first caller was answered immediately and transferred rapidly to fire dispatch, his office said.

Firefighters arrived at 6:40 a.m., according to the city’s timeline, which would seem to dispel online rumors that neighbors struggled to get in contact with emergency personnel.

Several efforts have begun to support the families of the victims and survivors.

The Fund for the School District of Philadelphia has teamed up with City Council President Darrell Clarke to establish a fund to help the families.

In addition, a GoFundMe, which a representative from the site said was verified, had raised more than $126,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

“In the midst of all of this trauma, Philadelphians have come together to wrap their arms around these families,” Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said on Twitter Thursday.

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