Fatal fire devastates family, mobilizes neighbors

by Carla Robinson
Posted 12/1/21

On November 13, a fire killed a 7-month old boy and his 70-year-old great grandmother on the 300 block of W. Mt. Airy Ave., leaving the family devastated and their twin home uninhabitable. 

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Fatal fire devastates family, mobilizes neighbors

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A fatal fire that killed a 7-month old boy and his 70-year-old great grandmother broke out on the 300 block of W. Mt. Airy Ave. on the evening of Nov. 13, leaving the family devastated and their twin home uninhabitable. 

Elaine Morris, 70, and Ren Fields, 7 months, both died of smoke inhalation, according to the Medical Examiner’s Office. Assistant Fire Chief Harry Bannan said another great grandson, a 7-year-old, was upstairs when the fire broke out but was saved by a neighbor on the close-knit block who encouraged the boy to jump out the window and into his arms.

“They both fell, but the neighbor broke that child’s fall,” Bannan said in a television interview that night. “That neighbor, through his actions, prevented some serious injuries to that child.”

Neighbor Meg Moyer said that particular neighbor, who she knows well, prefers to remain anonymous. But she said it was amazing to see him talk the boy down from the second floor window. 

“We all ran outside the second the house was on fire, we watched it and it was just paralyzing,” said Moyer. “It was so brave of him to do that. The boys are both very agile, always climbing the trees out front. And he did it, he caught [the boy] on the back deck and got him out.”

According to Moyer, Morris had lived on the block for many many years, and raised her daughter in that house. 

“If Elaine left anything in her car, people would let her know, and vice versa,” Moyer said. “It’s just a really great community that way. We all look out for each other. It's like family, really. I love it here.”

The surviving family members, which includes two students at Houston Elementary School, are now staying with relatives. Friends and neighbors on the close-knit block are responding to the tragedy by doing all they can to help - organizing a fundraising campaign, supplying meals and finding clothes, furniture and other items that the family now needs. 

“It’s just been phenomenal, the way everyone is helping to support,” said Moyer, who has been organizing a GoFundMe campaign. “We also have a MealTrain going, and that’s been just great - I didn’t know that you can buy gift cards for take-out food and groceries now MealTrain, but you can. And I know that’s been really helpful for the family.” 

According to news reports, Morris’ 33-year-old granddaughter was sitting in the kitchen when she heard her 7-year-old son yell “fire.” She attempted to put out the flames with a blanket but was unable to control the blaze. The 7-year-old jumped from the building, and the boy’s mother and another great grandson, age 8, also escaped the flames. 

The granddaughter and great grandsons who escaped the building were treated for minor injuries at Einstein Medical Center. 

The fire was under control by 9:05 p.m., according to Philadelphia Fire Department spokesperson Kathy Matheson, and its cause is still under investigation by the Fire Marshal's Office.

According to police, the fire was reported around 8:45 p.m., and the home was engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. They found Morris, who was pronounced dead at the scene at 8:51 p.m., unresponsive in the second floor front bedroom. The baby was pronounced dead at 9:51 at Einstein Medical Center. 

Neighbors who are now organizing to raise funds for the family are describing their effort this way on social media:

“On the night of November 13th, 2021, a terrible fire engulfed the home of one of our dear neighbors….destroying the home and taking the lives of two members of the family,” they write in their online appeals. “We want to come together as a community to hold this family in love and light and with tangible support.”

If anyone wishes to donate money go to gofund.me/706b46d3.

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