Officials are not yet saying if arson was the cause of a second major Camden fire in as many days that tore through an old commercial building Saturday morning.
Firefighters were still dousing "hot spots" before noon. A Camden County official said the city fire department was dispatched at 2:26 a.m. to fight a blaze on the 400 block of Winslow Street at the Howland Croft building, which took up most of the street. The fire was brought under control at 6 a.m., officials said.
However, the fire grew to eight alarms at the old garment factory, which officials said had been used only for storage for a number of years. Up to 30 residents were temporarily displaced and about 20 fire companies responded.
All residents were evacuated safely, Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper said. Two firefighters suffered minor injuries - one, a sprained foot and another, heat exhaustion - and were treated at local hospitals.
Harper said the firefighters were able to cut the fire off before it did much damage to the rowhomes across the street from the factory. All of the homes were saved, he said.
It was the second major fire in an old building in as many days.
On Thursday, in another section of the city, a fire broke out in a vacant building rented by the Reliable Tire Co. between 1964 and 1999. Mayor Dana L. Redd said city officials were setting up a relief fund for those affected. At least 65 people were unable to return home, city officials said.
Twenty-three buildings burned in that blaze, which started about 4:30 p.m. Thursday and was declared under control shortly after 9 p.m. Four firefighters and one civilian were treated for smoke inhalation.
By Saturday afternoon, emergency vehicles still lined Broadway in the Waterfront South section of Camden, where neighbors gathered on the sidewalks to watch emergency personnel attend to the fire's aftermath.
Brothers Pedro and Juan Vega looked tired after being up most of the night. The two live in their family's home on Winslow Street across from the factory.
They said their house sustained only minimal damage.
"Barely anything was hurt," said Juan Vega, 26. "Just some windows broken, a little water damage."
The family was awoken shortly after 2 by "crackling - it was very loud," said Pedro Vega, 28. "The heat was unbearable - we couldn't get out through the front."
They escaped through the back door.
Officials allowed residents back into their homes at about 10 a.m.
The Vega brothers said that while no one works in the building, it's not often empty.
"Homeless people sleep there, and people take things from there - copper, whatever they can find," Juan Vega said.
Sitting on a chair in front of their home on Broadway, sisters-in-law Stephanie Culbreath and Terri Davis praised the work of the firefighters, but said they were anxious for their electricity to be turned back on. Officials cut the power to a swath of the neighborhood at about 4 a.m., they said.
More worrisome, they said, was the second fire in just a few days.
"I do think maybe it was set," Culbreath said. "It does seem they're targeting these old vacant warehouses. It's been vacant for years, and there was never a fire. It makes you wonder."