Neighbors say they can't remember Albert Blassengale ever missing a day of school - until Tuesday.

But that is the least of the 10-year-old's concerns. After inhaling smoke from a Monday night fire in his North Philadelphia rowhouse, Albert is clinging to life at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

His father, Jerry, who is in his early 50s, was in critical condition at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He also inhaled smoke, while trying to save his son, neighbors said. Passersby helped both escape.

A neighbor and friend, Quielile Bing, sat across the street from the smoke-damaged house in the 1800 block of North 27th Street on Tuesday, anxiously awaiting any news.

Quielile's mother, Barbara Giles, said the pair hangs out often. "Albert stays to himself most of the time. He has a good personality, but he's respectful; he never messes with anybody. He's a good boy," she said.

A fifth grader at Gideon School, Albert gets A's and B's and is known as a chess whiz. Just days ago, he advanced from being a Cub Scout to a Boy Scout, neighbors said.

"He's so smart. He wants to be a lawyer," said his stepmother, Deborah Leatherberry. "He's just cool."

Fire officials said the blaze is under investigation.