Search for cause of 5-alarm apartment fire

WEST PHILADELPHIA - January 11, 2011

The Philadelphia School district has closed nearby West Philadelphia High School and Henry Lea Elementary School today due to ongoing fire activity in the area.

Walnut Street is still shut down between 46th Street and 49th Street.

Firefighters spent hours pouring water on the blaze and it has all turned to ice from the plunging temperatures overnight. Ice encased nearby cars and glazed roadways.

As night fell, the flames leapt from the rooftop as thick black smoke filled the West Philadelphia neighborhood. The massive blaze could be seen for miles.

Finally, five hours after the first flames broke out, around 7:30 last night, fire officials declared the fire under control.

When firefighters first arrived at the Windermere Court complex Monday afternoon, hallways were filling with smoke - and fast. However, crews had a difficult time locating the source of the flames.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said, "There was smoke in the building from the third and fourth floor. They started to look for it. When they found the fire, they found fire inside the walls, inside the cockloft."

From there, the blaze spread and fire officials sounded the alarm for more help. 160 firefighters aided in the battle as 50 pieces of equipment poured water on what was quickly becoming a massive inferno.

The 5-floor complex consisted of three large connected sections, containing 90 apartments (89 of them occupied) and somehow everyone made it out alive with no serious injuries reported.

The building has not been cited for any serious violations in recent years, yet, the New York owners came to town late Tuesday, telling residents they can get their security deposits back, if they'll sign waivers promising not to sue.

Joe Pierce lost his home, but he is grateful he escaped unharmed with his baby girl. He said he got no warning to get out.

"No fire alarms went off or anything. Nobody knocked on my door so I just came outside, grabbed my daughter and came outside," said Pierce.

The fire marshal is continues to search for the cause of this devastating blaze.

The Red Cross has stated they have aided 122 adults and 10 children Anyone wishing to help are encouraged to donate to the Red Cross disaster relief fund at Copyright © 2023 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.