Old City fire forces at least 100 to evacuate

A massive fire early Sunday morning tore through several buildings in Old City, leaving dozens stranded.

Firefighters spent more than six hours battling the four-alarm blaze that broke out just before 3:15 a.m.

Sydney Singh, 14, was asleep at the time in her family's condo above the shuttered Revolution Diner on Third and Chestnut Streets.

"Our neighbor downstairs, who's taking care of us, he knocked on our door and said we had to get ready," Sydney said.

The teen, home alone for the night, grabbed her younger brother and her dog and escaped the burning building.

"There was a lot of smoke and we couldn't really breathe. We had to cover our noses," Sydney said.

She and her neighbors got out just in time.

Firefighters arrived to find a building so engulfed in flames that even Philly's finest could not enter, though they tried.

"Our companies mounted an aggressive interior attack," said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel. "They were actually forced back by the volume of fire that was inside. Very dangerous, we were fortunate there were no injuries."

Diane, another victim of the fire, said she was shown "which way to go and we just got out."

She and her friend Debbie are both visitors from the United Kingdom. They were among more than 100 people evacuated from adjacent buildings into nearby hotel lobbies and SEPTA buses.

Billowing smoke and flame led to worries of smoke inhalation or fire spread.

Firefighters contained the flames by 7 a.m. But hotspots and flareups continued to keep them busy.

"You can't believe it," Debbie said, "can't believe we're so close to it. Never ever happened before. It's just mad."

The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army continue to assist the displaced. There was no word Sunday on the cause or the origin of the fire.

The fire commissioner says it will take days to finish the job.