By Oren Liebermann
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Flames tore through an abandoned warehouse in Northern Liberties on early Tuesday morning. It took firefighters 96 minutes to get the fire under control, but by then, there was nothing left. The cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
“There was a tremendous explosion,” said Ed White, who lives near the warehouse. “And a huge flame just came out of the building early this morning.”
Demolition crews spent the rest of the day tearing the building down. The fire threatened new construction across the street and the elevated train, but neither were damaged. One firefighter suffered serious injures when he fell from a ladder. He was released from the hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
No one else was injured.
“I think we need to take care of the abandoned buildings. We shouldn’t have to put up with that. No one should,” said neighbor Barbara White.
The building, located in the 1100 block of North Front Street, is owned by Tower Investments and real estate developer Bart Blatstein, the same group that built the Piazza at Schmidt’s a few blocks away. The company did not return phone calls or emails.
“I would be shocked if it was anything other than an accidental fire or started by squatters,” said Matt Ruben, President of the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association.
Ruben says the company has been one of the biggest forces in improving Northern Liberties. According to property records, this warehouse was called “Liberty Homes.”
“You invest hundreds of millions in a community like Tower Investments has, then this is a terrible tragedy that this happened,” said Ruben. “But it’s one building.”
Ruben says this is the first abandoned warehouse fire in Northern Liberties in more than a decade. Although nearby Kensington has seen a rash of these fires recently, he says there are not that many empty warehouses left in Northern Liberties since the redevelopment began.