An early morning fire tore through at least two buildings in Chinatown on Tuesday, with firefighters battling the blaze for hours to get it under control.
Around 1:55 a.m., firefighters received a call of a fire on the 100 block of North 10th Street, said Capt. Derek Bowmer, the executive officer of the Philadelphia Fire Department. When firefighters arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the occupied three-story building that has ground-floor retail and apartments above, a Philadelphia Fire Department spokesperson said.
A fire station is located just feet away from the fire, on the corner of North 10th and Cherry Streets, and firefighters were on scene within 30 seconds, he said. A second alarm was signaled at 2:30 a.m., the department spokesperson said.
The fire was placed under control at 6:13 a.m.
The fire started at a building with a market on the ground floor and extended to the building adjacent to it, said Bowmer. One building partially collapsed due to the fire, the department spokesperson said.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury, the spokesperson said. Firefighters later Tuesday morning were dousing the buildings from the top and rear of the structure, from North Hutchinson Street. Around 100 firefighters responded to the scene to try to stamp out the flames, said Bowmer.
The city Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause and the Department of Licenses and Inspections will determine if residents can move back into the buildings.
John Chin, executive director of the Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation, was relieved that no severe injuries were reported and that firefighters were able to respond so quickly. But the fire likely gutted a small, local business that was a crucial resource for residents, he said.
“The one business — a dollar store — was open and providing a very important service, very inexpensive goods, a key part of the services for the community,” said Chin.
The corporation, which provides social services to local families, along with technical assistance to small businesses, will distribute resources to residents affected by the fire, said Chin. The corporation was in the process of translating the information to Mandarin, which is many Chinatown residents’ primary language.
The fire was yet another challenge for a Philadelphia community that already deals with difficulties, said Chin. A bakery that was on the ground floor of the building adjacent to the fire was vacant, as it had already closed because of the pandemic.
“June we have immigrant heritage week,” said Chin. “It’s very difficult for small businesses and immigrant businesses. This is really the last thing that residents and business owners need.”