4-Alarm Fire Rips Through Physical Therapy Center In NE Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A Northeast Philadelphia community has been rocked by a four-alarm fire that damaged a fitness and physical therapy center and sent two people to the hospital Monday morning.

The fire broke out at the Aquahab Physical Therapy Center on Grant Avenue and Fordham Road, just after 11 a.m.

Well over 150 emergency responders battled the flames into the early afternoon to get the four alarm blaze under control.

“It’s pandemonium because you see the black smoke coming out, and then you have these old ladies that were doing therapy in the water. They were trying to get them out,” said patient Vic De La Cruz.

De La Cruz was one of a handful of patients inside the — now gutted — aquatic and fitness center. He tells Eyewitness News he was getting physical therapy on his knee when smoke alarms went off.

“I was in the water for about a half an hour,” De La Cruz added.

He thanks employees of the facility for getting him out the aquatic center pool, out of the burning building, and to safety.

“They were the ones who acted so quick, said De La Cruz.

“We knew it wasn’t a drill and got people moving as fast as we could,” said Becky Hudson who was working in the AquaHab center when the fire started.

Two employees from the aquatic and fitness center were taken to the hospital with minor injuries, after managing to get everyone else out.

“It wasn’t too bad to begin with it just looked like a small little fire but it progressed like I would say within five minutes the whole roof was in flames,” said Marissa Brooks another employee on the AquaHab side of the Aquatic and Fitness Center.

While employees said the flames appeared to start on the roof and a general manager confirmed work was being done on the roof, fire officials have not said if that work is connected to the cause of the fire.

“Our Fire Marshals and partners will be here for days, continuing to process this scene until we have a cause,” said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Theil.

Even without a cause to the massive fire, the owners of the Aquatic & Fitness Center vow to rebuild and assured employees they all still will have a job.

Matt Littman, president and CEO of AFC Fitness said in a statement that while crews work to assess the damage, they are committed to rebuilding their Northeast Philadelphia location:

“We’re extremely fortunate that our staff and members were able to swiftly and safely evacuate during the fire at our Northeast Philadelphia location on Grant Avenue this morning. The damage to the facility was severe and the Grant Avenue location will remain closed until further notice. Our team is working to accommodate displaced members and we’re encouraging them to utilize our other locations in Feasterville, Jenkintown and Bala Cynwyd. We’re also working to assess the damage and determine our path forward, but can confirm at this time that we’re committed to rebuilding our Northeast Philadelphia location. We truly appreciate the understanding and support of our members and the community during this difficult time.”

Fire crews were back on the scene Tuesday putting out hot spots and investigating.

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