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Fire victim, 5, was home alone

Grease blaze killed Tyania Garrick

When a kitchen grease fire roared through her Center City rowhouse Monday night killing her, 5-year-old Tyania Garrick was home all alone, authorities said yesterday.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said that firefighters who raced to the three-story brick rowhouse on Carpenter Street near 19th, found the little girl in a front bedroom on the top floor.

She was "not breathing," Ayers said. Fire Department paramedics were "trying to bring her back to life," he said. "They were working on her absolutely feverishly."

Tyania was pronounced dead shortly afterward at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The fire, which broke out at 7:56 p.m., was brought under control at 8:14 p.m, he said.

Ayers said either Tyania's father or an uncle was supposed to be in the house with the little girl. "They couldn't make up their mind," he said. "Somebody was supposed to stay home with this child. Disastrous communication left the child home alone."

"There were no parents at home at all with this child," said Ayers, who said it was "deplorable" that there were no batteries inside the home's smoke detectors.

The city-owned house, run by the Philadelphia Housing Authority, was last inspected May 16, 2006, when the "smoke detectors were working fine," Kirk Dorn, spokesman for the housing authority, said. The agency inspects its houses annually.

Ironically, this house was next scheduled for an inspection tomorrow, Dorn said.

Residents of city-owned properties are expected to replace batteries in smoke detectors when the batteries expire, Dorn and Ayers said.

The fire began in the first-floor rear kitchen where "something greasy was cooking on the stove," Ayers said.

He said it was not clear if Tyania had turned the stove on or if an adult had left it turned on before leaving the house.

Police said seven people lived in the house, including Tyania, her mother Shawnett Hoskins, 22, and father Andre Garrick, 29. The others were Shawnett's other daughter, a 1-year-old; her 48-year-old mother, Patricia Hoskins; and two of her brothers, Keshaw Hoskins, 23, and Hakeim Hoskins, 17, police said.

Neighbors outside the gutted red brick rowhouse yesterday looked upon the heap of charred belongings - chairs, tables, dressers, mattresses, high-heel shoes, children's sneakers - piled on the front sidewalk.

Sisters Jahmilla Watkins, 26, and Maisha Watkins, 19, who live on the same block, said Jahmilla's 7-year-old daughter had been playing with Tyania outside Tyania's house about five minutes before the fire started. When she noticed the fire, the 7-year-old ran to tell "me the house was on fire," Jahmilla said.

The sisters said they saw one uncle running to the house after the fire broke out. "He was trying to run into the house," but "a fireman pulled him out," Jahmilla said.

Police said Tyania's mother, grandmother and little sister were at an aunt's house when the fire broke out.

Police last night were looking into whether any adult should face charges in the fatal fire.

Tyania attended day care at Western Learning Center, on South Street near 16th. "She was just like a sweet little kid," said office manager Verina Drake, who heard about the tragedy when Tyania's mother called the center yesterday.

Yesterday afternoon, firefighters from Ladder Company 5 went to residents' homes on Carpenter Street to make sure they had working smoke detectors.

The Red Cross housed the family Monday night. The family was to stay with relatives last night, the Red Cross said.

Tyania was the city's 27th fire fatality this year, Ayers said.

On Sunday, 14-month-old Jessica Smith died in her West Philadelphia house after other children in the house had been playing with a lighter under a bed, Fire Department Executive Chief Daniel Williams said yesterday.

Ayers urged residents to call 215-686-1176 if they need a free smoke alarm. *