A four-alarm fire raging in South Philadelphia may put a serious damper on New Year's celebrations in the City.
A blaze broke out shortly after 2 p.m. at a warehouse rented by one of Philadelphia's preeminent Mummers organizations.
At Second and Wharton Streets, more than 120 firefighters from 33 companies battled the fire in the building where the celebrated Fralinger String Band stored its equipment.
Men from Fralinger stood at the scene as huge plumes of thick black smoke billowed from the three-story structure's roof. Said one: "A gloomy day just got gloomier."
For Thomas D'Amore, 24, captain of the String Band, the fire could not have come at a worse time. New Years is only three weeks away.
"Unfortunately, this is the first year we've rented this spot," said D'Amore, drinking a Pepsi outside the Shamrock Pub down Second Street.
What was lost in the fire were floats and costumes that were being worked on for the Mummers Parade next month.
"The thing that hurts the most: this is a hobby for guys, who are 9-to-5 blue collar, so what was lost was all their free time they put in," D'Amore said.
He said it was too soon to put a dollar figure to what was destroyed inside the building.
"It's all of our props for New Year's Day, most of which have been completed. So if it's a total loss, then it's very devastating," said Steve Coper, chairman and business manager for Fralinger.
Coper said that if everything is gone, the loss would be tens of thousands of dollars.
The warehouse also housed an auto-repair shop.
Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said firefighters initially attacked the fire from inside, but the flames and smoke were too heavy. Several cars inside were on fire. The firefighters retreated.
"It was a good decision," he said.
Ayers said there was "tons of fire (and) several explosions early on."
One elderly woman who lived in a house next door was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital with undetermined injuries. She was reportedly in stable condition.
At 4:30, the fire had yet to be declared under control, but Ayers said it was "well surrounded."
Contact the Online News Desk at 215-854-2443 or firstname.lastname@example.org