Tears streaked Malika Hudwell's face yesterday afternoon as she studied whisps of smoke that seemed to be slithering out of her family's South Philadelphia rowhouse.
The 15-year-old felt a jumble of emotions. Firefighters had just rushed into her house and put out an electrical fire in the kitchen.
She was alive and safe, along with her two younger siblings, her aunt and her aunt's baby.
Relief. She felt relief.
And then the unthinkable happened: A few hours after the kitchen fire was extinguished, heavy flames exploded out of the second floor of Hudwell's house on Garnet Street near McKean and tore through a neighbor's home as well. Thick smoke blanketed McKean Street, where dozens of wide-eyed residents gathered in disbelief.
Five firefighters received electric shocks when they dashed inside 2004 Garnet St. to battle a fire for the second time yesterday and were taken to hospitals, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.
The blaze was brought under control at 5:34 p.m., about 30 minutes after it started.
"The whole back of the house was on fire," said Steve Horvath, 58, of nearby Opal Street. "The electrical wires were burning. They went boom! Boom! I didn't know what was going to happen."
The fire displaced Hudwell and 15 other members of her family who were all living together, and at least two neighbors.
As of 10 last night, fire officials were still at the scene, trying to figure out how the second blaze started and how the firefighters were shocked, Ayers said.
The injured firefighters all were in stable condition and being held overnight for observation at Hahnemann University Hospital and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, he said.
The first fire started at 12:06 p.m. Hudwell said she was lying on a couch when she heard a "crackling noise in the kitchen."
It didn't take long to figure out what happened. An extension cord that was plugged into a portable heater was on fire. "I pulled the cord out, and the whole kitchen went up in flames," the teen said.
Her only thought was getting her sister and brother, ages 5 and 3, her aunt and her aunt's 1-year-old outside.
It took firefighters about 20 minutes to extinguish the kitchen fire, Ayers said. Hudwell's mother, Kalema, 34, said smoke was still coming out of the house after firefighters left.
"They never put it out all the way," she said. "Now we lost everything."
"We don't leave anything smoldering," Ayers said.