Demolition crews worked into the afternoon, knocking down brick after brick of what once was an abandoned warehouse, located at 1871 York St., in a blaze that left two fire fighters dead.
A warehouse went up in flames and became a five-alarm fire at 3 a.m. today. Police cars and fire trucks were parked on surrounding streets for hours, preventing traffic and onlookers from getting too close to a still-smoking area. The cause of the blaze has not yet been determined, although authorities are investigating the owners of the building.
Lt. Robert Neary and firefighter Daniel Sweeney were killed on the scene this morning after a wall collapsed during the blaze, official said. The men were investigating an extension of fire in a nearby building. Two other firefighters were injured. The men were from the Ladder 10 Company.
At a morning press conference Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers and officials discussed the tragic events of the morning.
“The last time we lost multiple firefighters was in August of 2004,” Ayers said. “The fire burned out of control for a significant period of time.”
Resident Sadie Kimball was awoken by the sounds of fire truck sirens around 3 a.m. Explosions and sparks from nearby electrical wires could be seen from her backyard. Kimball and her neighbors were notified on proper safety measures.
“They had everyone wake up and just be ready to go,” Kimball said. “They were able to get it [the fire] under control around 5 a.m. ”
Many area residents were relocated to neighborhood churches. Tran Deng and his family were moved due to heat caused by flames. Deng’s house received extensive damage and melting to the siding. His home is still without electricity.
Flying embers this morning damaged six neighborhood homes in total. Kensington High School for International Business, Kensington High School for Culinary Arts and Kensington High School for Urban Education were all closed for the day due to power outages.
PECO workers fixed electrical wiring into the evening in an attempt to bring power back to residents. Many residents sat on their front stoops observing cleanup work from fire and demolition crews.
Smoke still filled the air and winds blew debris into the crowd of watching neighbors. Kimball explained that the warehouse was once a hosiery factory but had been closed down for years.
“It was vacant but definitely occupied by the homeless,” Kimball said.
Mayor Michael Nutter was not in the city but released a statement today on the tragedy.
“This is a tremendous loss for their families and the City of Philadelphia. My prayers go out to their families and to the Philadelphia Fire Department whose members have lost two of their brothers,” Nutter said.
When looking into what may have caused the early morning blaze, Ayer said investigations will be underway.
“The fire marshal will take a good look. Any criminal activity we will follow up,” Ayer said.
The massive warehouse fire still had small flames sprouting from debris into the afternoon.