Hours after a raging house fire claimed the lives of a mother and her 14-year-old son and injured her 12-year-old daughter, the smell of smoke hung in the air and a shrine of teddy bears, candles, and balloons steadily grew on the front porch of the burned-out house in the 2200 block of Pierce Street in the Point Breeze section of Philadelphia.
Neighbors sat grim-faced on their porches trying to process the tragedy. They said the woman who perished was Linda Davis, 39, who succumbed to the blaze along with her son, Donte. Her daughter, Danielle, was able to escape.
Audrey Hill Jones, who lives next door, said she heard the mother shouting early Wednesday morning and realized something was wrong, but had no idea a fire had broken out.
“I’m washing clothes, and I heard her hollering at the kids a couple times. I don’t know if somebody had something on the stove or if she had gone to sleep with a cigarette. I just don’t know. Maybe a half hour more, somebody banged on my door and told me to get the hell out the house.”
Men from the neighborhood kicked in the front door and got the girl out, she said, but it was another 20 minutes before first responders were able to get the mother and son out of the home after the flames had been doused.
“They brought them out and they was working on them. They worked hard on them, trying to save them," said Jones, 62, who moved to the block in 1996.
The girl was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where she was listed in stable condition, said Miguel Torres, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Police Department. The mother and son were taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where they were pronounced dead.
Police and Fire Department personnel were dispatched at 12:40 a.m. after getting a call that people were trapped in the home, said Torres, who added that the investigation into what caused the blaze is active and ongoing.
“This is really hard to deal with. My heart goes out to them and to the father,” said neighbor Thelma Taylor, who said the children’s father was at work when the blaze broke out.
Aaliyah Young, 14, stopped to look at the shrine in front of the gutted house with her brother, sister, and a friend. Donte, a freshman at Furness High School, was her best friend, Aaliyah said softly.
“My thoughts are kind of messed up because he was my best friend and I never expected this to happen. Not to him,” she said.
“He was a pretty cool, chill person. Fun to be around. In school he always tried to make people laugh, always made sure that everyone was OK,” she continued. “We had lots of conversations where we would just end up laughing. Just a lot of fun moments.”