Massive Fire Destroys West Philly Apartments

It took nearly 5 hours for firefighters to bring flames under control

An inferno engulfed a West Philadelphia apartment building Monday afternoon.

"Thank God nobody was hurt but it hurts inside," said one fire victim.

It took about 140 firefighters almost five hours to bring under control a five-alarm blaze at the Windermere Court Apartments.

The fire broke out around 2:35 p.m. at the four-story building at 48th and Walnut Streets and flames quickly spread.

About 100 people were in the building when the blaze broke out. One person suffering from minor smoke inhalation was taken to the hospital.

About 90 units were affected, according to the Red Cross.

Plumes of thick smoke could be seen up to six miles away as flames shot up from the multi-wing building as streets near the fire location were shut down causing traffic headaches for drivers.

By 4 p.m. the flames were shooting through the roof and people throughout West Philly could smell the smoke. Flames continued to rage as most of the building was ablaze as of 5:15 p.m.

The fire continued to burn out of control as of 6 p.m. engulfing all three wings of the building.

By about 7:15 p.m. firefighters had the fire under control as they remained on the scene trying to extinguish hot spots, officials said.

“In the blink of an eye one minute you’re comfortable, you have a place to stay and you’re not homeless,” said fire victim Victor Neale. “Reality sets in, I’m homeless, I have nothing.”

About 85 people went across the street to a temporary Red Cross shelter set up at West Philly High School. About 75 of those residents including five small children had to be moved to the Locke Alain School at 4550 Haverford Ave. because of thickening smoke near the fire location.

About 25 people would be spending the night at the shelter, the Red Cross said.

In the end at least 125 people were left without a home including 11 children, the Red Cross said.

The fire also caused the Philadelphia School District to cancel school Tuesday at West Philadelphia High and Henry Lea Elementary School.

Firefighters continued to douse the hot spots on Tuesday.

The Red Cross continued to help the stranded residents.

"I don't have a home, but with everyone around, I have hope," said resident Patricia Brightful.

Resident Earl Baskerville had to leave his cat during the fire. Thanks to the efforts of local firefighters however, Earl was reunited with "Pacquiao," named after the world champion boxer.

Families will continue to receive meals and vouchers through Wednesday, according to the Red Cross.

Local universities are also offering to host coat drives to assist the Salvation Army with providing clothing.

"Everybody's contributing," said Jannie Blackwell of the Philadelphia Council. "People want to help."

The Red Cross is accepting monetary donations both online and at its main headquarters in Old City.

Both the Madison Apartments located at 236 S 48th Street and the Terrace Apartments at 4935 Spruce Street are offering temporary apartments for the displaced residents.

The cause of the fire still has not been determined.

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