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Man Dies After High-Rise Apartment Fire in Center City

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By Diana Rocco and Tim Jimenez

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Authorities are investigating the cause of a Center City high-rise apartment fire Wednesday afternoon that left a 60-year-old man dead.

Residents of the Walnut Square Apartments here at 13th and Walnut recall a chaotic scene.

“Looked out the window and saw quite a few fire trucks,” a resident said.

“There’s black smoke flooding out of that apartment,” another said.

Chopper 3 above as firefighters rush to a 10th floor apartment fire.  A 60-year-old man and his dog were trapped inside a burning unit and needing rescue.

“As a result of the fire there was one adult male transported to Jefferson University Hospital where he was later pronounced,” Deputy Fire Commissioner Richard Davison said.

The man was treated for smoke inhalation, but later died of a heart attack. More than 100 apartments were evacuated just before 4 p.m. Wednesday, stopping traffic in Center City and leaving dozens waiting in the street.

“I had just woken up, I work the night shift, so I woke up to a fire alarm and came down. I heard people saw water shooting down from up above,” evacuated resident Bobby Patel said.

“The water was shooting out the windows. I heard someone say there was water damage all the way down to the floor.  So I’m expecting that there’s going to be a lot of water damage,” resident Larry Avallone said.

Avallone came home from work to find the fire was in the apartment directly above his. Inside he had a priceless book collection.

“My valuables are valuable, but I feel bad for the person who died,” he said.

Some residents say the fire alarm goes off so often, they usually don’t take it seriously. But word that someone lost their life has those like Andrew rethinking that.

“All the people you meet in the hallway and all your neighbors are really nice people and you hate to see anything happen to any of them,” he said.

“We get fake alarms everyday here, but this seemed real,” Patel said.

Residents waited for hours while firefighters cleared smoke from the building and the fire marshal investigated.

“Anytime there is a fire and you do not evacuate the building, you make the job of the fire department that much more difficult,” Davison said.

Firefighters had the fire contained in about 40 minutes.

The investigation continues.

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