Fire Blazes Through Community Center

A devastating early morning fire destroyed a beloved community center for the developmentally challenged, but officials say the loss will not stop their mission.

The JEVS Human Services Building along the 5500 block of Wayne Avenue caught fire around 2:45 a.m. Tuesday morning, fire officials said.

The fire initially began in a commercial dumpster next to the center before spreading to the building.

Now, investigators from the Philadelphia Fire Department and the ATF are trying to figure out how it came to life. They even brought in one of their best investigators Porsche – an arson-sniffing dog.

Officials were quick to note that they have not ruled the fire arson, saying that the ATF investigates every commercial fire in the city.

The Germantown JEVS center stood as part of the community for 21 years and served many with severe disabilities.

"It's a facility that serves 72 folks with profound developmental disabilities and it's just a devastating lost for us," JEVS Human Services vice president Kristen Rantanen said.

The fire could have been much worse. The dumpster where the fire began shielded a gas meter from the intense heat and flames.

Firefighters worked hard to bring the blaze under control, but were confronted with several challenges including flaming drop ceiling.

JEVS employees were able to salvage a safe and filing cabinet from the charred remains of the center.

Officials plan to continue offering services to its members through its 17 additional city centers as they rebuild the Germantown location.

JEVS, which stands for Jewish Employment and Vocational Service, has served the Philadelphia region for more than 60 years.

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