2018 Fire That Ripped Through Old City Building Determined to Be Intentionally Set, ATF Says

The federal agency tasked with investigating fires and arson determined the cause is "incendiary."

A fire that ripped through a building in Philadelphia's historic Old City neighborhood in February 2018, despite the efforts of hundreds of firefighters, was intentionally set, federal officials said Friday.

The early morning blaze that left 160 people homeless was "incendiary in nature," the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said in a statement.

For months after the Feb. 18, 2018 fire, the block surrounding 239 Chestnut Street was shut off to traffic.

Its location in the heart of one of Philadelphia's most popular tourist destinations caused problems for surrounding locations. The Museum of the American Revolution is across the street.

Flames erupted around 3 a.m. on the sixth floor of the building, which housed apartments and retail stores, according to reports at the time.

"We grabbed our wallet, keys, my glasses, our shoes, our dog and literally ran downstairs," one resident of the building, Jenna Federico, said at the time. "We felt all the smoke around us going down the stairs."

The entire area where the fire spread was considered a potential collapse zone for weeks. City inspectors were tasked with meticulously checking all surrounding buildings for longterm stability.

The ATF did not go beyond its finding that the fire's cause was incendiary, but did note that the investigation is ongoing.

The ATF, Philadelphia Fire Marshal's Office and the police department are working together, the statement said.

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