PHILADELPHIA, April 16 (UPI) -- Fire authorities say they are investigating the cause of a predawn house fire in West Philadelphia that killed four people, including two children.
The victims were two boys, ages 2 and 4, their mother, Rishya Jenkins, 23, and the children's grandfather, Seneca McClendon, 75, a retired postal worker known around the neighborhood as Mr. Chuck, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said the blaze, which was reported about 4:42 a.m., broke out on the first floor of a rowhouse on Chancellor Street devoid of any working smoke detectors.
"They did not get an early warning," Ayers said. "It's just a terrible morning."
Jenkins was found dead in a rear bedroom. The two critically burned children died after being transported to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Seneca died at Misericordia Hospital, the newspaper said.
Witnesses said when the children's father, Anthony McClendon, 25, came home from work he tried in vain to beat back flames and enter the house. He became so overcome with grief, neighbors said, he had to be hospitalized.
The loss of Seneca McClendon was felt immediately by neighborhood residents, the Inquirer reported.
"I'm still crying on the inside. I'll never stop crying," said Debra Forrest, 47, a niece who lives close by.
"I'm devastated," said Lewis Divers, who McClendon had looked after for a while. "I loved Chuck, and the kids. They was good people, man, trust me."
"She was a great mother," neighbor Kim Hankins said. "Everybody was close. The block is like a family."
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