4-alarm fire in Fishtown disrupts SEPTA El service

FISHTOWN - July 10, 2012

John Tanczak of Northern Liberties tells us, "Well around 2:30 I heard the explosion. By the time I got to my yard, the first floor was already engulfed in flames."

Neighbors describe a powerful explosion followed by fierce, heavy flames shooting from a vacant Fishtown warehouse on Front Street near Girard Avenue. The blaze was reported just after 2:30 a.m. and was placed under control around 4:15.

"We heard a huge explosion and the flames probably went, I bet, a hundred feet high, and it just started raining ash everywhere," tells Fishtown resident Dan Greenland.

Firefighters from all over the city rushed to contain the blaze which quickly consumed the vacant 4-story structure.

Police evacuated some homes on Howard Street, but the fire commissioner says they soon determined nearby homes were not at risk. Firefighters quickly worked to contain the blaze from spreading to the SEPTA El and some new construction next door.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers explains, "The construction was absolutely taken care of. Firefighters put streams on and protected that area. Immediately did the same for the El, making sure they could protect it from the impingement of flames."

18-year veteran Daniel Crawford suffered a serious back injury after a fall. He remains hospitalized in stable condition.

It took the fire department at least two hours to put the blaze out, but it took hours more for the heavy mammoth excavator to arrive from South Jersey to demolish the scorched remains.

"Once the fire was out there was a threat of the front of the 4-story building leaning and falling down onto the El structure," Mike Kolasnik of SEPTA said.

The rail shutdown severely disrupted the morning commute for SEPTA customers.

The route 15 trolley was also shut down through much of the day.

SEPTA launched shuttle bus service along the affected route, but it all made a lot of people late to work.

The building is owned by real estate baron Bart Blatstein who is redeveloping lots of properties in the area.

While arson dogs have been sniffing throughout the day, there is no ruling so far on the cause of the fire.

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