Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said the fire was reported at 9:51 a.m. in the 3400 block of Joyce Street.
"Three minutes later, Engine 7 arrived on scene reporting heavy fire," Ayers said. "One of the persons was rescued by a neighbor or a passerby."
That man, the survivor, had collapsed in the living room near the front door during an apparent attempt to escape.
Firefighters worked their way up to the second floor and found the second victim dead in the front bedroom, Ayers said.
"They didn't have any smoke alarms," he said.
Firefighters found space heaters and tangled electrical cords in the living room, where the fire apparently started.
Ayers said the house had an illegal electrical hookup. "That endangers the entire community," he said.
Four unrelated people reportedly lived in the house, Ayers said.
"One had just left the house to mail a letter," he said. "One just left to go to work."
The Department of License and Inspections is investigating whether the property was being used as an unlicensed boardinghouse.
The fatality was Philadelphia's 21st fire death this year, compared to 31 this time last year, Ayers said.
All homes are required to have a smoke alarm, equipped with a 10-year lithium battery, on every floor, he said. The smoke alarms are available free from the Fire Department.
All households should have escape plans and drills, as well as a safety checklist, he said.
The Fire Department has a fire-safety website at www.freedomfromfire.com and a fire-safety app for smartphones.
Written by The Philadelphia Inquirer