WHEN THE MEN of Fralinger String Band planned their theme for the 2013 Mummers Parade - "Back from the Dead" - they didn't know it would end up ringing true.
But three weeks ago, when Fralinger came face-to-face with disaster in the form of a four-alarm fire that gutted the warehouse at 2nd and Wharton streets in which they built and stored their props, the shtick became all too real.
Lucky for them, a firewall between Fralinger's space and an illegally run car-repair shop where officials said the fire originated saved most of the props. Except for the band's power tools, which were ruined, Fralinger Captain Thomas D'Amore said everything else is now back in tip-top shape just in time for Tuesday's competition.
"The biggest change we had to do is rework some of the foam props, which are more of the gimmick props," said D'Amore, a South Philadelphia native. "We didn't need to start anything from scratch. We had to touch some things up, repaint some things, [but] we really didn't have to do too much."
D'Amore, 24, a sax player since 2000 who will be at the helm for the fourth year this New Year's, said the band - which won fifth place in 2012, two years after eight straight victories - is "in a position to contend for the top prize" now, despite the bump in the road caused by the fire.
"We thought we were down and out for at least a day there, but ... everything worked out with the warehouse, [and] everybody pulled together as a team," D'Amore said.
On Sunday, the band had its final prop rehearsal.
"All smooth, no hiccups," the captain said of the run-through. "Everything looks really good. We're really confident about where we stand."
From the day of the blaze, which destroyed the house next door to the warehouse and left at least three others on the block damaged, D'Amore and other Fralinger members said helping families affected by the fire was their main concern.
"To be able to help the neighbors and help the neighborhood, it really hits home for us," D'Amore said. "A lot of us still live in the neighborhood."
The Sunday after the fire, D'Amore said, the band marched down 2nd Street after its weekly rehearsal with buckets to raise money for the families affected.
Through New Year's Day, he said, Fralinger is continuing to raise funds for those families via its website. To donate, visit Fralinger.org.