As a roaring blaze claimed the home of a family of nine, several neighbors kicked down a door to help two young children run to safety Tuesday morning in the city's Frankford section.
Tricia Tilson and Karima Whitmore, residents of the 5200 block of Hawthorne Street, said they broke down the front door of 5214 Hawthorne shortly after 10 a.m. to save the children from the burning building.
"Five minutes later, they would've been dead," said Tilson, 25.
The children were identified as Delneisha Torrence, 8, and Robert Watford, 9. Their mother, Mozell Boozer, visibly shaken as she received aid from Red Cross personnel after the fire, declined to comment.
Neighbors said that the mother was away and a babysitter was at the home when the fire began. Mastery Charter Schools confirmed that both children attend Smedley Elementary, which was not in session Tuesday.
By the time firefighters arrived, both children were safe. According to fire officials, the blaze was brought under control in about 15 minutes. One firefighter went to a hospital after sustaining minor injuries.
The cause of the fire was under investigation, officials said. Neither of the children was injured.
Shortly after 9:45, Tilson, who lives next door, said she smelled smoke. Then she saw billows of black and gray curling down a staircase. She ran onto the street, thinking that the smoke was coming from her home.
The 8-year-old girl, Tilson said, was hanging out the second-floor window of the house next door. Her eyes were red, and she was sobbing. "Help us! Help us!" Tilson recalled hearing her scream.
"We were ready to pull them out of the window," said Whitmore, 24, who lives down the block.
With the help of Darlisa Norris, 30, who was visiting her uncle nearby, Tilson and Whitmore kicked the front door more than 10 times until it fell down, they said.
They yelled for the children.
Minutes earlier, neighbors said, the sitter, whom officials did not identify, could not find the children through the gathering smoke. So she kicked aside an air conditioner and jumped from a second-floor window to the backyard.
The sitter then ran around to the front of the house - by which time the door was down and the children were safe, witnesses said.
Tilson said, "I'm just glad everyone made it out."