Monday’s four-alarm blaze engulfed a property where a Mummers string band was storing and completing its props.
Fralinger String Band, 1901 S. Third St., has its costumes and instruments ready to go and safely stored at its Pennsport clubhouse for its New Year’s Day strut up Broad Street, but the group typically rents out an area garage to allow its members more space to work on and store staging materials.
For months, a spot at Second and Wharton streets housed those belongings that its marshals typically had worked on Tuesday evenings, with plans of devoting hours every night starting next week.
On Tuesday, Fralinger was anxiously waiting to see what remained of its countless hours of work after a fire ripped through the garage at 1301-11 S. Second St. and its southern neighbor, a residential property, Monday afternoon.
“We were very, very lucky, Fralinger’s Chairman Steve Coper said yesterday of the $70,000 worth of tools and almost-finished props that were recovered around 1 p.m. Tuesday. “There was an inside wall that gave us some protection. What we found was most of our props intact, but they were soaked with water, which is certainly understandable. It’s far better than a total loss.”
Fire personnel was dispatched to the 60-by-100-foot, two-story location at 2:14 p.m. Monday, Philadelphia Fire Department Executive Chief Richard Davison said of what he referred to as an auto repair shop. The four-alarm fire was under control an hour and 33 minutes later, but an elderly neighbor was transported to a nearby hospital as a result of the flames.
PECO de-energized the area at 3:29 p.m. to allow firefighters to work, resulting in lack of power for 558 customers, according to the electric supplier, which returned power to all but four customers by 9 that night.
The fire marshal determined the cause of the fire, which originated at or near the rear of the property, to be faulty electrical wiring, Davison said.
The City fined the property’s owner, Joseph Sigismondi, in August, Maura Kennedy, a Department of Licenses and Inspections spokeswoman, said.
“He was doing auto repairs in the structure and he doesn’t have a license to do auto repairs,” she said.
The City requires all motor vehicle repair shops to obtain a license specifically for that action, she added, noting that the storage of the autos is not illegal.
The department received calls about Sigismondi’s unlicensed facility last year and conducted a series of inspections, Kennedy said. Sigismondi was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine for his failure to obtain the authorization in Municipal Court.
It was unknown if the site remained an illegal operation at the time of the fire, she said.
Sigismondi also owes more than $37,000 in unpaid taxes from the last two years, according to the Office of Property Assessment.
Preparing for worst-case scenario, the string band members had begun a mental inventory since they were unable to physically assess the damage at first.
“Everyone has been waiting for almost a 24-hour period, so it’s almost euphoric — the anxiety of getting into the space,” Coper said.
Upon receiving the OK to enter the building, about 30 members showed up to the garage to learn the state of their backdrop and other props and determine what must be done within the remaining 18 days leading up to the big performance. After discovering only water and smoke damage, the crew relocated everything to a warehouse near Water and Wolf streets.
“It took a record performance of a half-hour to get everything out,” Coper said.
Fralinger, which made its debut in front of Fralinger’s Drug Store, Second and Sigel streets, has a rich history. While an eight-year winning streak ended in 2010, its captain, Thomas D’Amore, took home first last year. Not performing was never an option for the group, which will turn 98 Tuesday, Coper said.
“We have gotten a number of responses from the community, from other Mummer organizations that are happy to lend a hand or lend equipment, if needed, and local businesses might be able to help us with certain things,” Coper, a Downingtown resident, said prior to learning the state of their items.
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