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Mother and 4 children perish in Philadelphia blaze

House was unsafe, relatives had said

PHILADELPHIA -- A fire swept through a dilapidated house early yesterday, killing a woman and her four children, who were staying in the home despite relatives' warnings that it was unsafe, officials said.

Firefighters found the victims unresponsive on a bed inside the West Philadelphia house's boarded-up second floor, Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.

Rescuers took the victims out through windows and paramedics tried to revive them, he said. The dead were identified as Cornellry Robinson, 25, and her children, Josiah, 1; Mikel, 4;, Christian, 5; and Alissa, 6, all named Johnson.

"It's just a catastrophic thing," Ayers said.

The house was filled with debris and its electrical wiring was rigged dangerously, Ayers said. "It was just in a shambles, no place where human beings should be trying to live."

The fire started about 3:20 a.m., officials said.

Firefighters discovered the victims after pulling the plywood off the building to gain access.

The house had been owned by the deceased mother of the woman who died in the blaze. It was abandoned after her death.

"She was told not to go back there, but she didn't listen," Ayers said.

Investigators were working to determine what caused the fire.

Neighbors said they were not aware anyone was living in the house, which fire officials said had no smoke detectors.

Yesterday, a woman stopped and left two teddy bears adorned with Valentine hearts outside the charred house.