Ayers on Old City Firehouse Fire: “This Is Surreal”

Apparently firehouses are not required to have sprinklers.

firehouse-fire-4-optimizedAt 11:36 this morning, an alarm went off at the Fourth and Arch streets firehouse that’s known commonly as the Ben Franklin Firehouse. As emergency medical technicians arrived at the scene, they noticed heavy smoke and fire spreading inside the firehouse. An explosion was reported by those in the vicinity.

The fire started when an ambulance caught fire inside the station, and then spread to the overhead doors. Fortunately, no one was injured and the two medics who rushed into the firehouse to fight the blaze—first with fire extinguishers and finally with hoses—also exited without injury. According to fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers, who addressed the media at the site, the fire was out of control for nine minutes, causing extensive interior damage as well as heavy damage to the ambulance parked inside. The fire was officially under control at 11:49 a.m.

Arch Street’s intersections with Third and Fourth streets were closed down, but Fourth and Arch was reopened at 12:38 this afternoon. Ayers said that the firehouse will return to service once damage is surveyed and that the medic vehicle that put out the fire would be back in service within the hour.

The firehouse is equipped with a fire alarm system, said Ayers, but has no sprinklers. Firehouses are not required to have sprinklers, he said, so most do not.

According to the commissioner, the last time a Philadelphia firehouse caught fire was New Year’s Day, 2006, at Engine 73. “This is surreal, it isn’t something you see very often,” said Ayers.

All photos | Jessica Green