A West Philadelphia community is grieving today after a family of four was killed in the city’s third fatal fire in six days.
“There’s not one person on this block that’s not hurt,” longtime resident Marlyn Davis said. “The family’s been around for years. We’re all family here. It’s like a bad dream – I’m still waiting for somebody to wake me up.”
Mourners poured onto the sidewalks of the 5200 block of Chancellor Street as workers boarded up the row home’s windows. Inside, piles of children’s toys still laid against the blackened walls amid the charred rubble.
Neighbors identified the victims as Jayden and Cynsere McClendon, aged two and four, and their grandfather, retired U.S. postal worker Charles McClendon, 79. All three died at area hospitals. The body of the children’s mother, Rishya Jenkins, 23, was found inside the home.
They said that police had to restrain 25-year-old Anthony McClendon, who returned from working a night shift shortly after the fire broke out around 4:45 a.m. to find his home engulfed in flames and his family trapped inside. “He kept trying to go inside the house and get his family, but it was too bad and he couldn’t do anything,” Roschelle Fogle said.
“He’s the only survivor and he’s going to need a whole lot of support,” Davis said, looking around at the crowd gathered to share their sorrow and pay their respects. She said that McClendon’s two brothers also died suddenly. “Now it’s his fiancee, his father and his two kids – they were all he had left, besides his mother. He’s going to need this.”
“But they’re all alright now because God is holding their hands and they’re on their way to heaven.”
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said this morning that there were no working smoke detectors in the residence. The deaths brought the number of fire fatalities to 16 in the first four months of 2012, including the two firefighters killed in a Kensington warehouse blaze last week, compared to 32 in the entire year of 2011.
Fogle said that she took one lesson away from the recent tragedies. “Smoke detectors do save lives,” she said. “Make sure everybody gets them and the batteries are fresh.”