Fire destroys West Philadelphia auto body shop, US
A three-alarm fire tore through a West Philadelphia auto body shop on Monday morning, 21 October 2019, sending thick smoke and large flames into the air, causing bricks to fall to the sidewalk below and forcing students from their nearby high school. Fire fighters urged people to avoid the area of 60th and Spruce streets after the fire began at ABM Automotive at 59th and Irving streets shortly after 10h00. Thick black smoke, which could be seen for miles around and shooting flames engulfed the auto garage as fire fighters arrived minutes later. Around 10h30, a wall of the building collapsed onto cars parked outside. Another wall fell onto an adjacent home, Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said.
Thiel said they were being "extremely cautious" with the firefight due to the threat of further collapse.
Firefighters attacked the flames from the outside, after briefly entering the structure, as they poured water on the large building. They also doused surrounding homes in an attempt to prevent the fire from spreading.
The fire burned across the street from Sayre High School fields but didn't appear to be spreading toward the school. At the request of the Philadelphia Fire Department, the School District of Philadelphia evacuated about 400 students to Andrew Hamilton School at 56th and Spruce streets.
Fire fighters even parked a fire engine on the athletic field as they battled the flames. A total of around 125 fire fighters responded, utilising 51 different apparatus to battle the blaze, Thiel and the fire department said.
The nearby Tabernacle Lutheran Church day care was also safely evacuated, Thiel said. And, students at WC Bryant Promise Academy, which is about five blocks away on Cedar Avenue, were dismissed early at 13h00 due to smoke that blew into the building, the school district said.
By 10h50, fire fighters seemed to beat back some of the flames as they hit the fire from multiple sides with water. The massive fire fight continued past 11h25 as fire fighters hit the blaze at all angles.
It appeared that everyone made it out of the building and there were no immediate reports of injury, Thiel said around noon, while noting it would take some time still to bring the fire under control. The fire was finally brought under control around 12h45, the fire department tweeted. Crews were still putting out hot spots on Monday evening however.
The building appears to be in an L-shape but the flames and smoke mostly came from the part of the building along 59th Street. Thiel said that fire fighters put themselves in harm's way to prevent the fire from spreading. "If it weren't for our fire fighters cutting off that fire spread, the fire could have gotten into adjacent residences and moved all the way down the block," Thiel said.
Before the fire was even brought under control, fire investigators, including the arson unit, were brought in to find a cause for the fire. This is part of normal procedure, Thiel said.
A man who claims he used to store his car at the burning facility said that multiple cars are serviced and stored there. He said his family stored more than five cars inside, including a 2013 Bentley that belonged to his brother who died last year. "As you get older, you get wiser," the man said. "You can't cry over sentimental things. But my brother, that's something I can't get over. And I can't replace. Since he passed away, I haven't touched that car. Nobody touched the car. We just put it in the garage. And now this occurred."
The owner of the building, known as "Mr Al," told NBC10 he tried his best to douse the flames himself at first. "I went and got a fire extinguisher," he said. "I couldn't understand why. I had two fire extinguishers and it wouldn't put it out."
The NBC10 Investigators uncovered past code violations against the auto body shop. Just a few weeks ago, Licenses and Inspections building inspectors cited the auto body shop for multiple violations, including using portable heaters and cooking equipment. The property owners then had a month to fix those issues with inspectors due to return in November.
Source: NBC Philadelphia