The fire broke out around 6:15 p.m. on the 3200 block of Chaucer Street, across from the NovaCare Complex.
The flames spread to three adjacent homes.
The fire was declared under control at 7:28 p.m.
Officials say there were working smoke alarms in the home.
Residents say firefighters worked feverishly to contain the blaze.
"I came downstairs in the kitchen and saw all the smoke and a couple moments later the whole sky was filled up with smoke," said Bill Reichert.
"It was like a movie. It was terrible - the flames were shooting out," said Lottie Bruno.
Neighbors say 85-year-old Angelo Munao was alone in her home and was unaware it was on fire.
"They were saying 'Unlock your door, your house is on fire!' and she was like 'No it's not.' The smoke was spreading through all the roofs and the police came and had to get a flower pot to bust her window,"said Vincenzo Didonato.
Three Philadelphia police officers worked quickly to try to get the woman out.
"They kicked in the door, the one cop got severe burns on his arms. It was really bad," said Michael Beverly.
The woman was not injured but the three officers suffered minor injuries. They were taken to Methodist Hospital for treatment.
Fire officials say the flames spread quickly through four homes through the attic.
"Its web structures - every member depends on the other member so there's a possibility of an early collapse, because if one part fails the other part fails," said Deputy Chief Joe McGraw, Philadelphia Fire Department.
The Red Cross assisted the three families displaced by the fire,