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Fire Destroys 'Suit Corner' Business In Old City

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Fire engulfed a landmark Old City retailer Wednesday morning, destroying the business in the process.

The fire broke out in the Suit Corner, on the southwest corner of Third and Market Streets, about at 9:15 a.m.

The fire department declared it under control about 40 minutes later, but then quickly struck a second alarm as the blaze flared up and consumed the building. The fire was finally placed under control at about 10:35 a.m.

One firefighter was taken to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital after he tripped over a hose line while battling the fire.

The Suit Corner, with its red-white-and-blue facade, has been at 3rd and Market for more than 50 years. Its companion businesses, the Shirt Corner and the Tie Corner, went out of business previously. The building that housed the Shirt Corner, on the northeast corner of the intersection, was in the news recently when a portion of the building collapsed while undergoing redevelopment (See Related Story).

Business owner Gary Ginsberg says he was inside the Suit Corner with seven employees when the blaze broke out in a window display. He called the fire department and attempted to put the fire out with a hand extinguisher, but quickly decided to evacuate the building. Ginsberg (center of photo below) says all the employees were safely evacuated.


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(Suit Corner owner Gary Ginsberg, center, talks with firefighters. Photo by Pat Loeb)

"What's going through my mind is all the years of business down at 3rd and Market going down to an end. I just can't believe this is happening right now," Ginsburg said.

Fire Commission Lloyd Ayers says, "We ended up with about 100 plus firefighters."

Police blocked off Market Street and 3rd Street in the area of the fire. The block includes longtime Old City restaurant "Fork," and, a bit further down the block, the historic Ben Franklin Post Office.

Displaced neighbors are glad they and their pets weren't hurt.

"That was my biggest concern. I mean obviously stuff can get repaired, but you can't get this replaced," neighbor Ben Cross said.

From fire to flooding, smoke and water damage could shut down neighboring businesses like the Fork restaurant and High Street on Market for a few days. They are both owned by Wayne Aretz. He saw small flames in the front display window of the Suit Corner and says firefighters arrived just a few minutes later.

"They pulled up and I thought this is going to be done in 15 minutes, they're just going to squash it out. And it just, within five minutes, just completely went wild," Aretz said.

A fire official said the fact that the nearest firehouse, at 4th and Arch Streets, has been shut down for more than six months (see related story) had little bearing on the firefighting efforts. He said the first company was on scene three minutes after the fire was reported and the blaze had already taken hold strongly.

Fire commissioner Lloyd Ayers said Wednesday's response time was satisfactory.

"Pipeline twenty got there in three minutes, the national standard is five minutes and twenty seconds so we think that they got there and did a good job."

He admitted, though, that crews from 4th and Arch would have got there a minute faster. He said that difference would have had no impact.

Firefighter Union president Joe Schulle disagrees.

"Everything you read, everyone who talks about fire will tell you that seconds count."

He's been arguing for the station at 4th and Arch to reopen, making fighting fires like Wednesday's that much easier.

"To minimize the effects of a couple additional minutes for a response times to a fire is I think ill advised."

Well into the night, fears of a flame-up kept firefighters busy dousing the building with water.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


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