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Cause of Firehouse Blaze In Old City Revealed

By Matt Rivers

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Nearly a month after fire broke out a firehouse in Old City -- we now know the cause.

This was the scene last month when an ambulance went up in flames at Ladder 2 at 4th and Arch Streets (see related story).

One city councilman now wants hearings on the state of equipment within the fire department (see related story).

Fire officials said Thursday they now know what caused an ambulance inside a legendary Philadelphia Fire Department to catch fire in late September.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers told CBS 3 that trouble inside the engine's electrical system caused the fire.

"We believe it started in either the alternator or the battery or the cable or something like that," said Ayers.

The fire station, Engine 8 Ladder 2, has remained closed since the fire did heavy damage on September 27th, and the commissioner did not offer a timeframe on when the station would reopen for service.

Philadelphia City Councilman James Kenney said the fire is part of a much larger issue for the department.  He said the fleet as a whole, including ladder trucks and medical units among others, is chronically under serviced by its city caretakers, the Office of Fleet Management.

"Apparatus sit in repair bays for weeks or months at a time," said Kenney. "And some of our trucks are 27- to 30-years-old."

Kenney said he and others have requested fleet maintenance records from the city, but those documents have yet to be turned over.

Kenney said he believes the documents would show widespread maintenance issues across the fire department's fleet.

The city has staunchly defended fleet management, calling it an excellent department.

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