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UPDATE: Donations reach max for fire victims

January 11, 2009 3:48:05 PM PST
The Red Cross says that there is an abundance of clothes. On Sunday, a spokesperson for the Red Cross has said they have an abundance of clothes at the church for the residents and do not need any more. They thank those who have donated to the fire victims.

The fire was declared under control at 6:10 p.m.

The smoke alarms began sounding in the "C" section of the Grange Apartments on Grange Street shortly after 11:00 a.m. Saturday morning. The building is located off of Broad Street in Ogontz.

Arriving fire crews reported heavy fire from the 4-story building. The fire started in the basement and quickly spread to all four floors.

Mayor Nutter, whose fire department cuts have been controversial, pointed out how quickly firefighters got to the scene.

"It was a two minute response to this location. There are 47 pieces of equipment on the scene, 179 firefighters and other personell fighting this fire," Mayor Nutter said.

Heavy fire was reported in the basement, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors. The first floor of the building housed businesses. There were apartments on all the other floors.

Despite the firefighters' best efforts, the flames spread through the U-shaped building.

The 7th alarm was sounded by firefighters at about 1:15 p.m.

"In the beginning the fire, we believe, starts in the basement, firefighters make a quick attack on the fire, fire goes up the pipe chases and starts to get away into the upper floors," Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said.

An emergency evacuation was called just after noon.

Firefighters were forced to pull out and attack the blaze from the outside.

The fire, however, continued to spread and a rear wall collapsed. Homes along 15th Street were evacuated.

Red cross says 60 units have been destroyed, 50 of which were occupied by residents. At least 75 residents went to a Red Cross shelter at the Howell School at 13th and Grange.

All residents got out safely, but many are now thinking about everything they lost.

Kevin Thompson had only the blanket around him to keep him warm as he was among those who lost everything.

"Everything that I had to my name is now gone and I'm watching it burn consistently; there's no words to explain it," Mark Rodriguez, another victim, said.

22-year-old Kareem Farmer lived in the apartment with his girlfriend and 3-month-old daughter Jada. All of Jada's new baby gifts are gone, as well as Kareem's entire apartment.

"I'm just trying to figure out what to do now," Farmer said.

It is also hard on the Red Cross which has responded to at least three major fires this month alone.

"One thing that makes it common is just the horrific loss, the smell, the smoke, all their holiday items gone," Donna Palmiera of the Red Cross said.

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