A fire in South Philadelphia that started in a warehouse used to store cars caused heavy damage to another nearby building used to house equipment for a successful Mummers group, leaving that group with just three weeks to regroup before the Mummers Parade on New Year's Day.
The four-alarm blaze began at a warehouse at 1301 South 2nd St. around 2:30 p.m. Monday and quickly spread to a warehouse that houses props and equipment used by the Fralinger String Band, a decorated Mummers group.
Officials say the Mummers material is worth tens of thousands of dollars and is also very flammable.
The Fralinger String Band hold the Mummers String Band record for most consecutive wins with eight straight between 2003 and 2010. They were created back in 1914.
NBC10 spoke with Fralinger String Band chairman Steve Coper who called the fire "devastating," but vows that the group will march New Year's Day.
"We intend on participating no matter what," Coper said.
"Luckily, we're a resilient enough organization that I don't think we're going to fall down for this. We're going to work really hard. We're going to make sure that we are ready by new year's day," said another Fralinger member.
The band was slated to go last during the upcoming parade and raised money to put together props and costumes for their show. Coper believes all the group's equipment and props were destroyed, but won't know for sure until they can get inside the building. The costumes, however, were not stored in the damaged warehouse.
Other Mummers groups have already reached out to Fralinger to give their condolences, but the group will need money to replace their props. Fralinger wants to make sure their neighbors also get help, so they've set up a fund for the residents in nearby homes that were also heavily damaged in the blaze.
"We didn't know the whole time that we were sitting next to people who had lost their home and when we found that out it totally sunk our hearts," Fralinger Stringband Captain Thomas D'Amore said.
An elderly woman whose home was completely destroyed by the fire is recovering in a local hospital after suffering minor injures during the fire.
NBC10 also spoke to Jenn Deckey, a babysitter for a family who lives near the fire. She was the woman who spotted the blaze and alerted authorities.
"We were coming back from Target and I just noticed smoke coming out of the building, out of the side of the garage on Wharton and 2nd," said Deckey. "There's a fire station only two blocks away but I didn't hear any sirens. So I called. There was just black, billowing smoke coming out of the bottom, kind of rolling out like waves."
"We don't have power right now," said Deckey's boss Jake Jacobs. "That's the big issue. We're going to wait and see what the fire department tells us about when they might get power restored..."
"We're just concerned about the smoke damage since it was an auto repair shop so there's a lot of chemicals and who knows what's in that smoke. Some of our neighbors are just much more affected than we are. We're pretty lucky but some of the folks right across the street from the warehouse have just been absolutely engulfed in that tremendous billowing cloud for hours. So I just don't know what they're going to do with their homes. That's a difficult situation."
NBC10 confirmed the owner of the repair shop where the fire started is Joe Sigismondi, a contractor. L&I inspected the building in August, September and November of 2011. L&I also tells NBC10 Sigismondi was given a $4,000 fine back in August since he did not have a license to repair vehicles at the shop.
No one answered the door at Sigismondi's home Monday night.
Tuesday morning, firefighters were still working to put out "hot spots" within the building.
Firefighters said they would investigate to find out the exact cause of the blaze.