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Building fire at 48th and Walnut Credit: Alexandra Fleischman

At 2:35 p.m., a large fire broke out in the Windermere Court apartments at 48th and Walnut streets. The fire was contained by the Philadelphia Fire Department, which arrived at the scene immediately and evacuated the 98 residents of the 89 occupied apartment units.

No injuries were reported.

The fire sent up a large plume of dark smoke visible from campus.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. According to Eddie Mateo, a maintenance crew member who was working in the building when the fire started, the flames originated on the third floor and quickly spread up to the roof.

According to Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers, the fire went up the shafts to the roof. With its cockloft-style roof, the old building allowed the fire to spread much quicker, he said.

The Office of Emergency Management set up a reception center in West Philadelphia High School — across the street from the burning building — to shelter people from the cold and to account for all residents. The Emergency Medical Service team, the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army were on scene providing support and services to the families. SEPTA also shuttled families to a new site, the Alan Locke School, due to the high school’s close proximity to the fire.

Ayers and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter spoke with residents of the building and answered questions.

According to Nutter, 40 equipment pieces and 140 personnel worked to darken the fire. In a press statement, he said, “We are doing the best we can under very difficult and challenging circumstances, mostly because of the temperature and [because] we are now into nightfall.”

“This is an amazing achievement by the Philadelphia Fire Department being exhibited here tonight,” he added.

According to Nutter and Ayers, the dislocated residents constituted a mix of all ages.

“There are beautiful faces but sad faces tonight,” Ayers said.

According to Nutter, there was no serious smoke damage to the school across the street. The fire department and school district were in the process of determining plans for school Tuesday.

Nutter warned those in vehicles to avoid Market and Walnut streets in West Philadelphia.

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