Heartache and Burned Houses Linger on Gesner Street, 2 Years After Deadly Inferno

In the dead of night after the Fourth of July 2014, a porch fire ignited nearly half a city block in Southwest Philadelphia. Four children -- infant Taj Jacque, his brother, 4-year-old Patrick Sanyeah Jr., and 4-year-old twins Maria and Marialla Bowah, became trapped in a home on the block and died in the blaze. NBC10 revisits the block two years after the tragedy.

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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Patrick Sanyeah Sr. tends to candles on the porch of the home where his two sons, Taj Jacque, an infant, and Patrick Jr., 4, died in a massive fire July 5, 2014. He visited the block on the Fourth of July this year to light candles and pray.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Patrick Sanyeah Sr. lights candles for his baby son and his 4-year-old son, lost in the blaze.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Relatives and friends of the children surround Patrick Sanyeah Sr. as he lights candles to place on the porch to mark the two-year anniversary of their deaths.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Patrick Sanyeah Sr. stands in front of a memorial of candles and balloons on the porch of the home where his sons, baby Taj Jacque and 4-year-old Patrick Jr., died along with 4-year-old twins Maria and Marialla Bowah.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Burned houses still stand on Gesner Street in July 2016, two years after a massive blaze on the block left four children dead.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Neighbors on Gesner Street say work on the destroyed homes has come in fits and starts, but they haven't seen any progress for months.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Steps of the burned houses are still blackened from the burning. The fire burned so hot that siding on houses across the street melted.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
The houses stand boarded up, but neighbors say animals get inside through gapes in the window boards.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Jeffrey Boone, 29, still remembers the night of the fire like it was yesterday. He was the first on the block to realize the houses were burning, and called 9-1-1 before running up and down the block frantically trying to wake neighbors. Boone's sister's home was badly damaged in the fire, but is fixed now.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Jeffrey Boone says he can still hear the screams of the children who became trapped in one of the houses.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Warnings from the city Department of Licenses and Inspections and building permits are plastered onto the door boards at the burned houses, but neighbors say they haven't seen much change in the last two years.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
One of the houses destroyed in the fire sits repaired between others that are still damaged. Five homes are still destroyed.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Balloons and candles mark the porches of the home where baby Taj Jacque, 4-year-old Patrick Sanyeah Jr., and 4-year-old twins Maria and Marialla Bowah died in July 2014. Taj and Patrick's father, Patrick Sanyeah Sr., visited the block on the Fourth of July to pray with several relatives and friends.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Relatives of the young victims visit Gesner Street on the Fourth of July 2016, two years after the deadly inferno killed the four children.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
A destroyed home sits next to a renovated one on Gesner Street. Besides owner-occupied homes the fire damaged, only one home has been repaired. Neighbors say most of the homes were rented prior to the blaze.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Patrick Sanyeah Sr. led a prayer for his sons on the block on the Fourth of July. He said he's still hurting just the same, two years after the blaze.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
A man comforts Patrick Sanyeah as he visits the home where his two sons died two years ago.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Patrick Sanyeah lights a candle on the porch steps.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Five homes on the block are still badly damaged and unoccupied. Patrick Sanyeah says it hurts to see work being done on the houses, because he still doesn't have answers about how the fire started.
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Morgan Zalot / NBC10
Friends and relatives of the young victims of the July 2014 blaze on Gesner Street gather on the Fourth of July 2016 to honor their memory.
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