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. 

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

  • 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

  • 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

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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