EAST LANSDOWNE, Pa. (AP) — At least six people were unaccounted for following a fire at a home that started after two police officers were called there and wounded by gunfire Wednesday, authorities said.
“Our fear is there may be multiple people inside that home who have died,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said. “We are hopeful that that is not true.”
Officers responded to the house in East Lansdowne around 3:45 p.m. after a 911 call reporting that an 11-year-old girl had been shot, Stollsteimer said.
They immediately came under fire. One officer was shot in the arm and the other in the leg, officials said. They were both described by Stollsteimer as male, veteran officers. One works for the East Lansdowne department, and the other for neighboring Lansdowne.
Officers from Upper Darby saved their lives by dragging them out of danger, he added, and “we expect them to be perfectly fine.”
Authorities believe the home was set on fire by someone inside. Intense flames were initially seen rising from the roof and top floor of the three-story home before spreading to the lower levels, largely gutting the structure.
Stollsteimer said later Wednesday that six to eight people, including children, were unaccounted for. He said the fire was still smoldering and no one would be able to search the site until Thursday.
There was no more information about the child who was reported wounded.
The whereabouts of the person who fired at the officers also weren’t clear, but Stollsteimer said there were “no threats to the community from that house.”
Upper Darby Superintendent Timothy Bernhardt described a volatile and dangerous scene when officers from his department responded to the home and were able to rescue the two wounded officers.
“All officers that were on scene initially were taking on fire, and then when they removed themselves from it, there was no more gunfire at that point,” Bernhardt said.
A WPVI-TV helicopter over the scene captured officers with ballistic shields dragging an officer down a sidewalk to an ambulance.
Stollsteimer said he had seen the wounded officers at the hospital and they were doing well.
The Rev. Moses Dennis, pastor at the nearby Faith Immanuel Lutheran Church, said he and others put the church and its child care center on lockdown when they saw police running down the street. They were later able to evacuate the children safely, he said, but everyone was still in shock.
“The staff here were able to get their vehicles so they can go home and try to process everything, because it is like a trauma,” Dennis said.
East Lansdowne is about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of downtown Philadelphia.
This story has been updated to correct that one of the officers is with the East Lansdowne department and the other is with Lansdowne.
Todt reported from Philadelphia.