Historic Philly Firehouse Catches Fire

Sept. 28--PHILADELPHIA The Philadelphia Fire Department was forced Friday to temporarily close a firehouse that serves the historic district around Independence Hall because a fire that started in a medic truck has damaged the brick structure.

At 11:36 a.m., two emergency medical technicians reported a fire in their truck, parked in the garage of the firehouse at 101-15 N. Fourth St.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said other firehouses in Center City responded to the blaze, which was contained by 11:49 a.m. "Everyone is safe," he said. "Both medics got out."

The fire was still under investigation, he said, although all signs point to the medic truck.

The firehouse, across from the Arch Street Meetinghouse and two blocks from Independence Mall, is home to Ladder 2, Medic Unit 44, and Air Unit 2.

The department used to house Engine 8 there, but that company was taken out of commission as a part of budget cuts in 2008.

Joseph Schulle, president of Local 22 of the Philadelphia Fire Fighters' Union, said Friday's emergency underscored the vulnerability of that part of the city after those cost-cutting measures.

Engine 8, he said, could hold 500 gallons of water. A ladder, in contrast, does not pump water. It's used for search-and-rescue missions.

Schulle said without Engine 8 and its pumping capability, the firehouse was not adequately equipped to respond to fires in the neighborhood.

If there had still been an engine at the firehouse, "I'm sure we would've rapidly extinguished the fire," Schulle said. As it was, the firehouse "didn't have the equipment to fight the fire."

Ayers said the historic district is also served by firehouses at Sixth and South Streets and North 10th Street in Chinatown. The Independence Hall area "is still pretty well protected," he said.

Ayers said the firefighters assigned to Ladder 2 were away from the station, undergoing training at the time of the fire. When they returned, they assisted emergency teams, he added.

Ayers said the last time his department had to battle a blaze in one of its own firehouses was New Year's Day 2006.

"It's not something you see often," he said.

Ayers said the medic truck was destroyed and the firehouse sustained heavy damage to overhead garage doors, the roof, and windows. It does not have sprinklers.

jlin@phillynews.com

215-854-5659 @j_linq

www.inquirer.com/doubledown

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