Seven children among 13 dead after 'terrible' house fire in Philadelphia

None of the smoke detectors were working in the building, said officials. Credit: AP

Seven children are among 13 people who have died after a large fire tore through a house in Philadelphia, officials confirmed.

Another two injured people were sent to hospital and fire officials warned the death toll could increase as firefighters inspected the three-storey house where 26 people had been staying.

The four smoke alarms in the building, which was public housing in the city's Fairmount area, did not appear to have been working, fire officials said.

Authorities have not yet released the names or ages of those killed in the blaze, which started before 6.30am (local time) at the building which had been converted into two apartments.

First deputy fire commissioner Craig Murphy told a press conference: “It was terrible. I’ve been around for 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I have ever been to."

Officials said the number of casualties is likely to increase from the fire Credit: AP

Neighbour Dannie McGuire, 34, said through tears: “I knew some of those kids – I used to see them playing on the corner."

“I can’t picture how more people couldn’t get out – jumping out a window,” she added.

Mayor Jim Kenney said: “Losing so many kids is just devastating. Keep these babies in your prayers.”

Firefighters and police arrived at around 6.40am to find flames shooting from the second-floor front windows in an area which is believed to be a kitchen, Mr Murphy said.

An official said it was one of the worst fires he'd seen in his 35-year career Credit: AP

The odd configuration of the house, which had been split into two apartments, made it difficult to navigate, he said, but crews were able to bring it under control in less than an hour.

There were 18 people staying in the upstairs apartment on the second and third floors, and eight staying in the downstairs apartment, which included the first floor and part of the second floor, he said.

He said none of the four smoke alarms in the building appeared to be working.

Television news footage showed ladders propped up against the smoke-blackened front of the house, with all its windows missing.

Holes remained in the roof where firefighters had broken through.

The alarms in the building had been inspected annually, and at least two had been replaced in 2020, with batteries replaced in the others at that time, Philadelphia Housing Authority officials said.