Inquirer staff writer Marcia Gelbart reports:
Inza Dosso, 47, a Philadelphia parking attendant who immigrated from the Ivory Coast, said his two children, a daughter, Mariam, 7, and a son, Ramere, 8, were among seven people who perished in a fire late Friday night in Southwest Philadelphia.
Dosso said his children had been dropped off at a home at 6418 Elmwood Avenue by their mother, who was not present when the fire broke out. The couple is separated.
Dosso said the mother of his children was a friend of the woman who was renovating the property's basement and was apparently holding some type of holiday party. She was the mother of two other children who died in the blaze.
Dosso said he last saw his children on Wednesday. "I give to them the gifts," Dosso said. "Clothes and everything they need."
Charlene Rawlinson, who runs a day care center next door to the fire-ravaged home, said the woman renovating the basement had lived there for about a year. Rawlinson said a picture of Jesus is visible in the charred ruins of the home's first floor, undamaged.
The fire broke out when the woman renovating the basement poured some type of fuel—kerosene or gasoline—into a portable heater and sparked an explosion. She and another man in the basement, Harris Murphy, escaped to alert authorities. The woman also suffered burns, as did a third adults now in serious but stable condition at Chester Crozier Medical Center. Two other adults also made it out of the home unharmed.
But the heater remained, blocking the only exit. The staircase from the basement to the home had been removed, as part of the renovation.
Murphy, 35, a Liberian immigrant, said one of the adult victims was his brother, Henry Gbokoloi, 54. He and the other adults were watching the Bourne Ultimatum, a spy thriller, when the fire erupted. Murphy, his forehead and right arm still bandaged, said the four children killed, including a toddler, were asleep on the floor. He said he alerted the Fire Department that his brother had moved the children to a shower, where he thought they would be safe for five or ten minutes.
"I was the last to get out," said Murphy.