Northeast Times

UPDATED: Fire displaces five Port Richmond families

While no one was killed or ser­i­ously in­jured, adults and chil­dren whose homes were des­troyed are left with only the clothes on their backs. Now, neigh­bors across the River Wards are work­ing to lend a hand. 

  • A great tragedy: A woman looks up at the five scorched homes on the 2800 block of Memphis Street in Port Richmond, which were gutted by flames early Sunday morning. PHOTO BY MARYANN TROMBETTA

  • Parishoners of Firm Hope Baptist Church, 2313 E. Auburn St., and members of the L.O.V.E. Social Club prepare posters for a donations gathering event on Wednesday, July 24, from 4 to 8 p.m. at Aramingo Avenue and Somerset Street. SAM NEWHOUSE / STAR PHOTO

  • Aftermath: The boarded-up homes on the 2800 block of Memphis Street on Tuesday afternoon. SAM NEWHOUSE / STAR PHOTO

Ed. note: Check back to this story fre­quently for up­dates as they oc­cur, in­clud­ing in­form­a­tion about fun­draisers for vic­tims and dona­tion loc­a­tions at the bot­tom of the story. 

At about 1 a.m. Sunday, a blaze de­scribed by one loc­al res­id­ent as “one big ball of fire from one end of the street to the oth­er” des­troyed five homes on the 2800 block of Mem­ph­is Street. 

No one was killed or ser­i­ously in­jured, but the fire has left 20 people, in­clud­ing four chil­dren un­der 12, without homes, said Dav­id Schrader, spokes­man for the South­east Pennsylvania Chapter of the Amer­ic­an Red Cross, in a phone in­ter­view with Star on Monday. 

Ex­ec­ut­ive Fire Chief Richard Dav­is­on said on the phone Monday that the Fire De­part­ment re­ceived no­ti­fic­a­tion of the in­ferno at 1:09 a.m., and that the fire was placed un­der con­trol at ap­prox­im­ately 1:51 a.m. The fire began, Dav­is­on said, on the first floor of 2842 Mem­ph­is St., and spread to num­bers 2840, 2844, 2846 and 2850. 

“The fire is cur­rently un­der in­vest­ig­a­tion,” Dav­is­on said Monday.

Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment Pub­lic Af­fairs Of­ficer Jill Rus­sell told Star on Tues­day that 2842 Mem­ph­is St. was set on fire Sunday morn­ing by a 32-year-old male. Po­lice have not yet de­term­ined what in­cen­di­ary device was used. The ar­son, Rus­sell said, oc­curred dur­ing a “do­mest­ic-re­lated dis­turb­ance.” A wit­ness iden­ti­fied the male as start­ing the fire, Rus­sell said, adding that no fur­ther de­tails were avail­able on what the wit­ness saw.

The man was not a res­id­ent of the house, Rus­sell con­tin­ued. He is lis­ted as the of­fend­er on the offic­al po­lice re­port, but his name is not be­ing re­leased at this time, and po­lice are cur­rently search­ing for him, Rus­sell said.

Two homes on the block also were dam­aged by smoke. By Tues­day, most of the burnt homes had been sealed with wooden boards and no­tices of haz­ard­ous con­di­tions had been pos­ted, and some in­di­vidu­als were on site clean­ing rubble away. 

Red Cross vo­lun­teers ar­rived at the scene of the blaze at 2:30 a.m., Schrader said, adding that the Red Cross hasn’t re­spon­ded to many fires that span five en­tire homes. 

One fam­ily who was dis­placed by the fire, he con­tin­ued, is stay­ing at the Red Cross House, a tem­por­ary fa­cil­ity for people who have ex­per­i­enced a house fire. Those stay­ing in the West Phil­adelphia house, Schrader said,  get their own room and three meals a day, and re­main there for an av­er­age of 21 days.

“As long as it takes them to get a new place,” he said. 

Along with the re­spon­ders from the Phil­adelphia Fire De­part­ment and the Red Cross, the Red Paw Re­lief Team ar­rived on the scene of the blaze as it was hap­pen­ing. Red Paw is  “The Red Cross for an­im­als,” said its founder Jen Leary. 

The or­gan­iz­a­tion was no­ti­fied of the blaze, Leary said, by the Phil­adelphia 2nd Alarm­ers As­so­ci­ation, a non­profit vo­lun­teer as­so­ci­ation that was on the scene. The Alarm­ers provide as­sist­ance to the po­lice and fire de­part­ments.

“Any­thing that will dis­place a fam­ily, we’ll come in and as­sist with the an­im­al, then work with cli­ents de­pend­ing on their needs,” Leary said Monday by phone.

Red Paw keeps dis­placed an­im­als in foster care on an on­go­ing basis, as long as the an­im­als’ own­ers re­main in con­tact with the or­gan­iz­a­tion. Dur­ing Sunday’s fire, Red Paw res­cued a dog, Sheba, and a cat, Whit­ney, who be­long to fire vic­tim Nicole Fra­zi­er, 34. 

Leary said both an­im­als are do­ing great. 

“Hav­ing the 2nd Alarm­ers and The Red Cross and the Sal­va­tion Army and the Fire De­part­ment know about out ser­vices, it helps them as well, be­cause it’s one less thing for them to deal with in a fire,” Leary said.  

After word of the fire spread throughout Port Rich­mond, or­gan­iz­a­tions and in­di­vidu­als began to of­fer help.

A Face­book group, “As­sist­ance for 2800 Mem­ph­is Street Fire Vic­tims,” is provid­ing in­form­a­tion on the af­ter­math of the fire and what dona­tions are needed. 

Mary­ann Trombetta, pres­id­ent of the Port Rich­mond Town Watch, said she vis­ited the block Sunday af­ter­noon after see­ing a re­port of the fire on the news, she said on the phone Monday. 

She vis­ited the block with Doug Black, Jr., a pas­tor at Des­tiny Church, which com­prises a net­work of churches which meet all over the city.  

The or­gan­iz­a­tion has set up a webpage for mon­et­ary and tax-de­duct­ible dona­tions to the vic­tims. Vis­it that page at des­ti­nychurch­philly.org/mem­ph­is-st

“I knew Doug would know what to say to people who had been through something like this,” Trombetta said. “As we were stand­ing there, I met Nicole [Fra­zi­er], and she said, ‘I wish I had a change of clothes.’ Doug went home and got a bag of clothes [for her] from his wife.” 

Ac­cord­ing to Trombetta, the vic­tims of the blaze can use whatever they can get.

What the vic­tims need, she said, is “everything that you would take for gran­ted,” — a tooth­brush, tooth­paste, soap, cloth­ing, men’s and wo­men’s cloth­ing, baby items, any­thing. 

“Whatever you drop off, if these fam­il­ies can’t use it, [the churches] will find some fam­ily that can use it. Or take your money and go get Kmart or Wal­mart gift cards,” Trombetta said. “I hon­estly don’t think there’s any­thing you can’t help them with.” 

Firm Hope Baptist Church, loc­ated at 2313 E. Au­burn St., around the corner from where the fire took place, had already col­lec­ted sev­er­al pairs of shoes, boxes of toys, a bag of cloth­ing, and a box filled with as­sor­ted kit­ch­en­wares for the dis­placed fam­il­ies by Tues­day af­ter­noon.

The church is part­ner­ing with the L.O.V.E. (Ladies of Vivid Ex­cel­lence) So­cial Club to hold a “com­munity unity” event today, Wed­nes­day, Ju­ly 24, from 4 to 8 p.m. by the Sun­oco gas sta­tion at Ara­mingo Av­en­ue and Somer­set Street in Port Rich­mond to col­lect dona­tions for the dis­placed fam­il­ies. 

Dona­tions can be dropped off at the fol­low­ing loc­a­tions: 

In Port Rich­mond:

•   Firm Hope Baptist Church, 2311-17 E. Au­burn St., (215) 313-1231, from noon to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m.

•   Moth­er of Di­vine Grace Day Camp, 2612 E. Mon­mouth St., (215) 429-7325, Monday through Fri­day, from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

•   Mem­ph­is Street Academy Charter School, 2950 Mem­ph­is St., (215) 291-4709, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Fri­day.

•  The Port Rich­mond Dis­trict Of­fice of State Rep. John Taylor, 2901 E. Thompson St., (215) 425-0901, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Fri­day.

In Fishtown:

•  liberti church, 2424 E. York St. (En­trance on Gor­don St). (267) 908-3625, from Sunday - Thursday,  9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

•  An­thony’s Cafe, 319 E. Gir­ard Ave. (At Ox­ford Street), (215) 634-0981. 

The L.O.V.E. So­cial Club will also col­lect dona­tions on Aug. 10 at noon, at Cione Play­ground, at Ara­mingo and Le­high av­en­ues. A gos­pel choir from Firm Hope Baptist Church will also per­form at that event. 

“I can­not be­lieve that every­body got out,” Trombetta said. “One video [on the news] showed it was one big ball of fire from one end of the street to the oth­er.” 

Along with be­ing glad no one was in­jured or killed in the blaze, Trombetta con­tin­ued, she’s happy to see that neigh­bor­hood res­id­ents are re­spond­ing to the tragedy by help­ing the vic­tims.

“They just want to help out,” she said. “It’s the love of strangers.” ••

You can reach and at mjamison@bsmphilly.com.

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