A two-alarm fire at The Suit Corner shop in Olde City broke out before 9 a.m. Wednesday and was still filling the block with smoke as of 4:45 p.m.
“it’s the worst type of thing to catch fire,” said Lucien Lewis, 43, who sells stone carvings in the area. “That was the clothing spot. … That’s a lot of suits, and a lotta lotta lotta stuff up in flames.”
Eight employees were in the store when the fire broke out, reports say. Flames were still licking up from the roof at 1 p.m., and Market Street was closed between 2nd and 4th streets as firefighters kept water on the structure.
One firefighter said they had no choice but to let the fire burn itself out, as entering the building would be too risky.
“When I got to the top of the block, it was real smoky. It looked like the block got blown up,” Lewis recalled. “There was a little girl lying on the ground, I guess she sprained her ankle. There was smoke everywhere, and fire engines. I was like, ‘It’s going down!'”
One firefighter required medical attention but no other injuries occurred — except for the loss of the building, the last remnant of the Suit, Shoe, Pants, and Shirt Corner stores.
“There was no explosion — just the fire coming out,” said Rev. Boyzell Williams, 64, who was nearby when the fire started.
“I’m saddened because I was gonna buy a suit there next week. I’ve been going there since 1973,” Williams said. “To me, that’s a landmark going up in flames … That’s a piece of history.”
Philadelphia Fire Department Captain Clifford Gilliam said the 50-year-old business’ building’s roof collapsed. “I would say that building is destroyed.”
The cause of the fire was unknown and under investigation, he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters.