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."
One veteran firefighter suffered a serious back injury. He is currently being treated at Hahnemann University Hospital and we are told his injuries are not life threatening.
Service along this stretch of the Market Frankford line was shutdown for most of the day. SEPTA offered shuttle buses for passengers between Huntington and Spring Garden, but some commuters at Spring Garden say it wasn't enough to get them to their destinations on time.
SEPTA says they were able to take a look at the tracks, and the inspections went pretty well. But had to wait for walls adjacent to the El to get torn down before service could be resumed.
As daylight came, a thick coating of ash could be seen on cars several streets away. Firefighters still blasted water on the building. A sign hung from the facade showing that the building was available for lease by Tower Investments, Incorporated.
An arson dog is on standby as investigators look into what sparked the massive blaze.