PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Around 120 firefighters battled a three-alarm fire at a large auto garage in Philadelphia’s Cobbs Creek neighborhood. Crews were called to Al’s Auto Garage on 59th and Irving Streets for a fire around 10:10 a.m. Monday.

The blaze was put under control some two-and-a-half-hours later at 12:43 p.m.

The fire caused walls of the two-story structure to crumble down. An unknown number of vehicles inside the building were destroyed.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel called it a “very dangerous operation.”

“There’s been a lot of structural collapses out into the street, onto adjacent buildings. We’re being very cautious with this,” Thiel said.

Video from Chopper 3 showed flames and large plumes of black smoke shooting up into the air.

Mechanic Allen Williams and his wife, Dominique Hagans-Williams, were inside the garage went it went up in flames.

“We were doing some work. We went to turn the fan on, the fire started. When the fire started, we grabbed the extinguisher to spray it. We put the extinguisher on the fire. Next thing I know, everything ignited,” Allen Williams said.

Thiel said that a nearby day care and high school were evacuated. The Philadelphia School District says students at Sayre High School on the 5800 block of Walnut Street were relocated to Andrew Hamilton Elementary School.

Dozens of residents living on Irving Street also had to leave after the fire caused part of the building to collapse.

“They were knocking on all of the doors on this end and they evacuated the whole block so I moved my car. Thank God because the wall collapsed right there. The whole wall collapsed,” resident Teresa Armstrong said.

Licenses and Inspections issued violations on Oct. 4 to the auto garage for lack of requires licenses and permits, using portable heaters and failure to obtain an annual fire extinguisher check.

The auto garage owner was on scene and cooperated with fire and police.

The fire was so big, CBS3 meteorologist Matt Peterson said the smoke was visible on radar.

The Red Cross is providing shelter for at least two families.

One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion. No other injuries were reported.

(credit: CBS3)

It’s not clear yet how the fire started.

CBS3’s Chantee Lans reports.