Fire tears through Mummers band's warehouse (PHOTOS)

SOUTH PHILADELPHIA - December 10, 2012


The large South Philadelphia warehouse was still smoldering late into the evening, hours after firefighters battled flames and thick black smoke coming from the building.

"It's just an eyesore to the neighborhood anyway and I was just waiting for this to happen. I knew it was going to happen one day," South Philadelphia resident Justin Brown said.

Inside the 10,000 square foot warehouse at 2nd and Wharton streets were an auto repair shop and a workshop for the Fralinger String Band.

Members rushed to the scene but could do nothing to save their props for the Mummers Day parade.

"As you know this is all volunteer work, so a lot of guys, a lot of tradesmen, a lot firemen, a lot of policemen put a lot of work in and basically lost a lot of time," band captain Thomas D'Amore said.

"We got 110 guys that can get in there and build; we just have to get in there as a family and get it done," band member James Lippi said.

D'Amore tells Action News the band moved into the warehouse space in October.

Emergency crews were called to the three-story building at 2nd and Wharton streets in South Philadelphia around 2:14 p.m.

Action News cameras caught black smoke billowing through the block.

Homes near the massive fire were evacuated; one was destroyed and the elderly homeowner was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital as a precaution.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers says more than 100 firefighters were fighting the blaze.

Firefighters reported seeing cars from the auto repair shop on fire when they reached the warehouse.

"It became untenable and too dangerous to our firefighters and we went to an exterior attack and we did as much as we could," Ayers said.

Action News tried to speak with the building's owner Joe Sigismondi, but he said he had bigger problems to deal with.

"No comment," Sigismondi said.

Documents show a judge recently ordered him to sell the building because of $36,000 of delinquent taxes.

L&I cited him with four violations in two years (August 2011, September 2011, November 2011 and August 2012) for the unlicensed repair shop resulting in a court fine in August.

Sigismondi is Eric Lasalle's landlord.

While LaSalle knows there are questions to be answered, he defended his landlord.

"He's helped us out many of times. He's always looked out for our best interest and he's always done the maintenance that's needed to be done on the home," Lasalle said.

The Red Cross is assisting families affected by the fire.

PECO turned off the power for about four hours for 600 customers while firefighters worked on the blaze.

The Fralinger String Band believes it will be able to rebuild those props and be ready for the New Year's Day parade.

The band planned on showcasing a haunted house theme for their performance.

According to their website, the Fralinger String Band has been the "most consistent top prize winner" in the annual Mummers Parade on New Year's Day.

The band boasts "unprecedented" eight consecutive first prizes from 2003 to 2010.

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