Philly Firehouse Catches Fire After Ambulance Ignites

Fire crews were out on a training exercise when the fire started

By Dan Stamm and Vince Lattanzio
|  Saturday, Sep 28, 2013  |  Updated 10:27 AM CDT
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The firefighter's union says firefighters lacked a critical piece of equipment when they went to fight a blaze in their own firehouse.

NBC10.com - Deanna Durante

The firefighter's union says firefighters lacked a critical piece of equipment when they went to fight a blaze in their own firehouse.

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Flames engulfed a Philadelphia firehouse after an ambulance parked inside the garage ignited.

The ambulance caught fire inside Ladder 2 at 4th and Arch Streets in the Old City section of the city around 11:30 a.m. on Friday, fire officials say.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said that firefighters and fire trucks were out on a training exercise when the blaze broke out. Once they returned, officials say the crews were able to douse the flames in 10 minutes.

Witnesses caught explosions coming from inside the firehouse as the blaze burned on cell phone video.

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"I looked down and I seen smoke coming out of the firehouse, which is kind of odd because usually, you know, they're going to the fire, not the other way around," Ted Gutkowski said.

As SkyForce10 hovered overhead heavy black smoke could be seen pouring out of the front of the building as firefighters worked inside and outside.

The firehouse, which was also home to Engine 8, was destroyed by the fire. The fire company is better known as the "Ben Franklin" house due to its placement in historic Philadelphia.

While firefighters were able to knock down the flames shortly after arriving back to the firehouse, their union says they lacked a critical piece of equipment that hindered their efforts.

Joe Shulle, president of the International Association of Firefighters and Paramedics Local 22, said cutbacks in 2008 and 2009 left Ladder 2 without a pumper truck. He says that truck could've been deployed to better fight the fire.

"Had they been in the station, had they been in service, I'm sure they would've pulled out of the station and rapidly extinguished the fire," he said.

Ayers says since the fire crews were out of the house, it's hard to say that would've made a difference.

City officials say no firehouse has been closed because of budget cuts, however some have been browned-out for periods of time. But the fire so badly damaged Ladder 2 that it has to be closed.

The firefighters and other staff will be transferred to other stations.

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