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Ambulance Fire Damages Philly Firehouse In Old City

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PHILADELPHIA -

A blaze that broke out inside an ambulance damaged a firehouse Friday morning in Old City Philadelphia.

Flames broke out on a Medic 44 unit at the Philadelphia Fire Dept.'s Ladder 2 firehouse, located at Fourth and Arch streets.

WATCH VIDEO: Fire Commissioner Ayers Speaks At Fire Scene

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said EMTs from Medic 44 called the alarm in to the fire communications center at 11:36 a.m.

"They said that they had a fire in the medic unit at the time," Ayers said.

Engine 20 was initially dispatched to the scene, and soon Ladder 2's snorkel truck – which had been on radio for training – was called out, as well.

Those crews arrived together four minutes later, Ayers said, and found heavy smoke and fire in the ambulance and inside the firehouse. The flames had spread into the overhead doors.

A FOX 29 News camera on the ground captured the initial response of firefighters, and even a blast aboard the ambulance still in one of the bays (see the second video clip above).

"Everybody's safe," Ayers said. "Both of those medics got out. They did try to fight the fire. They used an extinguisher. They had it knocked down while they were calling – they immediately called for the help. Now, when they got there, we used inch-and-three-quarters hose lines to extinguish the fire."

Ayers said they got it under control by 11:49 a.m., so within nine minutes.

"We've got heavy damage to the medic unit, the medic unit's going to have to be towed. It's pretty much destroyed, really," Ayers said, adding that there is also heavy damage to the firehouse doors and a system to capture diesel fumes.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Arch Street remained closed, although traffic resumed by mid-afternoon on Fourth Street.

The firefighters' union says this may have been preventable, or at least extinguished quicker, if it weren't for 2009 cutbacks. That's when the Engine 8 pumper truck, which used to share this firehouse with Ladder 2, was decommissioned.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 22 described it as losing a limb.

"They took one arm out of the double houses that had an engine and a ladder company. They took one arm off," said Joe Schuley, Local 22's president. "None of the ladder companies of Philadelphia are equipped to actively fight a fire and put out the fire with its water supply."

Ayers weighed in, too.

"Well, everybody was out training with the exception of the medic unit," the commissioner said. "I can't say if it would have made a difference or not."

The firehouse had a fire alarm system but there were no sprinklers. The commissioner says there's only one firehouse in the city that is equipped with sprinklers.

Two other pieces of apparatus were in the firehouse at the time of the blaze. They are Air Unit 2, which only sustained smoke damage, and Reserve Pumper 302, which was not damaged. Both will be moved to other stations.

"Right now, the fire station is going to be out of service," Ayers said, adding that they were looking at how to operate move apparatus and personnel around to cover the area.

(UPDATE: Fire Dept. Releases Plan Friday Night)

Medic 44 was expected to be back in service by Friday afternoon using other rigs.

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