ATF joins arson investigation at Germantown apartments

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Authorities are working to track down an arsonist who has struck twice at the same apartment building in Germantown. (WPVI)

Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms have joined the investigation into a string of arsons at an apartment building in the Germantown section of Philadelphia.

The latest blaze at the Hamill Mill Apartments happened Wednesday night.

It broke out after 9 p.m. at the senior facility on the 200 block of East Church Lane, forcing two dozen residents from their homes.

It took firefighters 30 minutes to get it under control.

While no one was hurt, officials say next time they might not be so fortunate.

Firefighters were back on the scene Thursday morning, inspecting the building and developing a plan to get residents out in the event of another, more involved fire.

Many Hamill Mill residents are disabled, including Arthur Thomas, who has a broken foot. He couldn't even walk a few weeks ago.

"I was in a wheelchair," he told Action News. "I had to basically crawl down the steps to get out safely."

Zidonia Gerrod says she fears for her life.

"Very, very nervous," she said Thursday morning. "Very nervous, very scared."

Wednesday night's fire started in the first floor lobby.

The facilities manager said it was the second fire intentionally set in that location.

Two others happened in the elevator, including one Wednesday morning, which didn't fully ignite.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel is vowing to find the culprit.

"All of us care deeply about the residents that we serve," said Thiel. "We're going to find who's doing this. It may be just a matter of time, but between our federal, state and local partners we're going to figure this out, and we're going to put somebody in jail."

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fireapartment firephilly newssuspicious fireNorthwest Philadelphia
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