This month's fatal fire in the vacant East Kensington warehouse that left two firefighters dead could have been much worse, a neighborhood activist told City Council Friday.

"Our whole neighborhood could have burned down," Sandy Salzman, executive director of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation, told Council's Committee on Licenses and Inspections. "This could have been so much worse and we need help from you all to make sure this doesn't happen."

After the hearing, the committee approved a bill introduced by Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez that would force property owners to seal their vacant buildings or pay for the city to do so.

Quinones-Sanchez had initially sponsored a bill to address only vacant residential properties in response to a large number of foreclosures in her district, which covers parts of North Philadelphia, Kensington and the Northeast. But after the fire she amended the bill to include large vacant commercial and industrial buildings.

The legislation would require that vacant properties be sealed with rustproof steel security panels or doors to keep trespassers out.

The bill also would allow the city to create partnerships with community groups to document violations via time-stamped photos that would be sent to L&I.

L&I spokeswoman Maura Kennedy said the department will review the amended proposal.

Contact Jan Ransom at 215-854-5218 or Ransomj@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jan_Ransom.