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2-Alarm Fire In Kensington Shuts Down El Train, Damages Businesses

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By Natasha Brown

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A two-alarm fire tore through a store in Kensington, shutting down SEPTA’s Market-Frankford El.

Firefighters are still on the scene Thursday night dousing hot spots behind the building.

The two-alarm fire took two hours to place under control.

“I didn’t see anything but black smoke, and you could smell it,” says an eyewitness.

Thick black smoke could be seen billowing from miles away long before you ever arrived at the scene of the fire in the 2300 block of North Front Street.

As many as 75 firefighters aggressively tacked a blaze that they believe started at Sophia’s Gifts and Sophia’s Dollar Discount store in Kensington.

“The business was closed at the time and locked up, so when the fire department arrived it had to make forcible entry,” says Battalion Chief Michael Richey of the Philadelphia Fire Department. “In the rear the property is totally closed up and behind plywood, had cinder block.”

Firefighters quickly evacuated nearby stores, but that didn’t stop residents from keeping a safe distance, capturing the fire and the fire fight on cell phone video.

“I just saw a lot of smoke in my backyard and I came over here,” says an eyewitness.

“We saw all this smoke and they started busting out the windows, and the fire started spreading. The smoke was coming over the El,” says eyewitness Tina Stankowicz.

The fire started at 5 p.m. during the height of rush hour, forcing one of SEPTA’s busiest lines, the Market-Frankford El, to shut down near the fire scene.

“SEPTA is shuttling between Spring Garden and Allegheny. The El is shut down for safety of the trains,” says Richey.

Fire officials are still searching for a cause, but say no sprinkler systems and no fire alarms were found inside the business.

No one was injured.

SEPTA says regular service for the entire Market-Frankford Line will resume with the Friday service day.

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