A woman and her two little girls were able to escape a fire in Port Richmond Monday night, but they stood by helplessly as they heard the kids' grandfather screaming as he perished in the blaze, officials said.
The fire, which broke out about 11:15 p.m., was contained to the 52-year-old man's second-floor bedroom in an end-of-row house on Tulip Street near Ann, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.
When firefighters arrived, neighbors told them that they'd tried to rescue the man, who walked with a cane, but that they'd been pushed back by intense heat and smoke, Ayers said.
The woman, who was the man's daughter-in-law, and the children escaped on their own.
Ayers said the department had received six calls about the fire.
One is believed to have come from a cell phone belonging to an occupant and the five others were believed to have come from neighbors.
Once the fire was under control by 11:29 p.m., fire officials looked through the house and found no working smoke alarms, according to Ayers.
At the stairs between the first and second floors there was a bracket for a smoke alarm - with no alarm in it - and a smoke alarm that was found in the basement was set upon a shelf with the battery in backward, Ayers said.
The victim, who has not been identified, was the 11th fire fatality of the year, down from 13 at this time last year, Ayers said.
Still, he sees a troubling connection between last year's fire fatalities and this year's.
"We're starting to see the pattern again," he said.
"These folks aren't protected by smoke alarms and they aren't practicing a home-escape plan."
He urged those without a smoke alarm or an escape plan to visit www.freedomfromfire.com or call the city's 3-1-1 system for assistance.
"Our goal is to reach the last house on the last block in the last community in Philadelphia to get folks to understand you just don't have to die in a fire," Ayers said.