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4-Alarm Fire Engulfs South Philadelphia Mummers String Band’s Warehouse

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By Jericka Duncan, Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — A huge warehouse fire that erupted Monday might have destroyed elaborate props slated for use in the city’s annual New Year’s Day parade, event participants said.

Members of the Fralinger String Band said they were waiting to survey the damage from the blaze in a largely residential area of South Philadelphia. Firefighters were still pouring water on the building several hours after the first flames were reported, Fralinger Chairman Steve Coper said.

“Replacing this is going to be very difficult for us in 21 days,” Coper said. “We’re very anxious to assess what’s salvageable.”

Several explosions were reported at the three-story industrial garage, fire department Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said. It took more than 100 firefighters almost four hours to get the blaze controlled.

An elderly neighbor was taken to a hospital, and the Red Cross was assisting several families displaced by the fire.

Twenty-four-year-old D’Amore is the captain of the Fralinger String Band.

“We have our fingers crossed hoping that it’s just minimum,” said D’Amore.”I’m sure there’s some damage we’re going to have to take care of.”

D’Amore says once they find out what’s left of their prized possessions, his organization plans to hold a fundraiser for those in the neighborhood who have lost much more.

D’Amore was initially told he and other string band members would be allowed in the garage to assess damage on Tuesday. However, fire officials told D’Amore early Tuesday morning that due to building stability issues, he would not be able to go in Tuesday.

The warehouse’s owner, Joe Sigismondi, had previously been cited for operating an auto repair shop in the building, a violation of the zoning code, Department of Licenses and Inspections spokeswoman Maura Kennedy said.

Records also indicate he has several tax liens against him dating back to 1995.

The cause of the fire hadn’t been determined.

Fralinger is one of many clubs that participate in the Mummers Parade each Jan. 1. The century-old tradition is often described as Philadelphia’s Mardi Gras, with thousands of performers dressed in fancy costumes adorned with sequins and feathers.

String bands march in costume and then perform what Coper describes as a “four-and-a-half-minute Broadway production” for judges at City Hall. Mummers rehearse the musical numbers for months and put thousands of hours of labor into their extravagant sets and outfits.

Luckily, Fralinger’s costumes were not in the warehouse, Coper noted. He said the band, which has placed first several times in recent years, still plans to march on New Year’s.

“No question,” he said Monday.

Other Mummers clubs have volunteered to help replace whatever has been lost, said Coper, and the band is collecting donations through its website.

For more information on the Fralinger String Band, visit http://www.fralinger.org/.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The AssociatedPress contributed to this report.)

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