Fire Commissioner: Crews 'taking great risk to protect these businesses and to save lives'

The Philadelphia Fire Department answered hundreds of calls over the weekend as peaceful protests of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis turned to riots and looting in the City of Brotherly Love.

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel spoke with reporters at the scene of the latest major blaze, a two-alarmer Monday morning at North Broad Street and West Chew Avenue. No deaths or injuries were reported at this location.

The numerical totals are staggering.

On Saturday, the department's run totals included 729 EMS incidents, 149 fire incidents and three working fires.

Sunday, they were even busier, with 652 EMS incidents, 223 fire incidents and 24 working fires.

Thiel said crews are "taking great risk to protect these businesses and to save lives."

The department had three injuries to crews battling a three-alarm Center City fire Saturday night, but none from Sunday.

"We were on a very close call last night up in Kensington – multiple collapses, multiple buildings involved in that case," he said. "Firefighters literally stationed themselves between a row of homes and a burning 150-foot-by 300-foot Rent-A-Center with fire through the roof. We had wires entangled in hoses… But got right back at it, protected those homes, did everything we could to protect property."

He added, "We know that these businesses are the life-blood of our city."

Asked about the toll all of this is taking on crews, Thiel said, "It's punishing. I was able to stay down for about 45 minutes, then up for more fires. So, it's just been amazing."

"Again, you can see that we work very closely with our law enforcement partners. That's important for us, as well, having that trust that we have, we know they have our back so we can go take care of people's property, take care of their lives and do our best."

Thiel mentioned he had just come from a fatal fire scene on Sanger Street that was unrelated to any of the unrest. It's a very busy city and they have a lot of fires every day, he said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with them," the commissioner said. "And certainly we are thinking about it. Our hearts go out to every body that's been affected by these fires."

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