The Philadelphia Fire Department published on Twitter a media briefing where Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel announced that one deceased person had been located under the debris of a building which collapsed during the massive fire following an explosion on the 1400 block of South 8th Street Thursday morning.
The reports say that the fire started at a middle row home and then spread to adjacent homes.
Thiel informed that the fire at 8th and Reed Streets was under control. “That simply means that the fire is not spreading any further. By any means it suggests that we´re done here”, referring to the still ongoing dangerous situation.
Three rowhomes completely collapsed and two others are severely compromised.
“It looks like a bomb exploded,” said one witness. This was the scene shortly after an explosion and house collapse in Pennsport section of South Philadelphia. @6abc
Video shot by Mike Seccio pic.twitter.com/7LQ9TFEi4Q
— Jeff Chirico (@JeffChirico) December 19, 2019
The search for another occupant continues while rescue teams face potential building collapsing and possible sinkhole forming under the street.
They also are looking to confirm if there are people missing.
Governor Tom Wolf offered help to attend the situation. “I have offered state assistance if needed. Deeply saddened to learn of the potential loss of life and wishing for the safety of all residents and first responders”.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said that the collapsing buildings represented a very dangerous situation for the rescue efforts.
In a former briefing he said that “this will be an extremely risky and dangerous operation to perform… a thorough search and hopefully rescue anybody who might be inside. We’re still trying to figure out how many people occupied these buildings, where they were when this occurred.”
The commissioner stressed the strong determination of the Philly fire department to rescue possible victims.
“We´re gonna be here until the fire is out, then we´ll get inside. We´ll do everything we can to search these buildings and figure out if there´s anybody there and do absolutely our best to rescue them.” He told reporters. “We´re not giving up. We never give up”, he added.
Thiel says there were evacuations in the area and crews were going door to door. Meanwhile, firefighters tried to extinguish the flames from the street and adjoining rooftops. They pumped water on neighboring buildings in an apparent effort to prevent fire from spreading.
Police said they had received multiple calls to a house explosion and possible gas smell. Firefighters waited for the gas to be shut off so they could extinguish the fire.
Another aspect to take into consideration for the fast spreading of fire were the winds which were blowing about 12 miles an hour, with gusts up to 20 miles per hour, at the time the fire began.
Philadelphia emergency management officials warned residents about traffic tie-ups in the area and delays on surrounding streets.