Firefighters dodge exploding fireworks while dousing Parkwood house blaze

Neighbors in Parkwood experienced a Bizarro World version of Christmas in July on Monday.

They might want to call it “Independence Day in January.”

That afternoon, a massive fire broke out in a rowhouse on the 3600 block of Genesee Drive, igniting what multiple sources have described as a hoard of fireworks inside the property, forcing firefighters to dodge explosions as they tried to suppress the flames.

Two firefighters were hospitalized as a result of the blaze, as was a woman they rescued from the fully engulfed house.

According to Bill Gault, president of Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, one member of Engine 22 suffered burns to the back of his neck, received treatment at Temple University Hospital and was released that day. A member of Ladder 34 suffered heat exhaustion and was held overnight for observation at Aria Health-Torresdale before his release on Tuesday.

A Philadelphia Fire Department spokesman did not disclose the name or age of the rescued woman, who was taken to an area hospital in stable condition, reportedly for treatment of smoke inhalation and/or heat exhaustion. Her updated condition is not known.

The blaze was reported to the city’s 911 system at 1:35 p.m. Ladder 31, at Comly and Academy roads, was first at the scene. Firefighters immediately saw “heavy fire” in the house, said Executive Chief Richard Davison. The home is two stories, brick, and at the end of a row.

The flames were declared under control about one hour later.

Davison acknowledged that firefighters reported the presence of fireworks. The city’s fire marshal continues to investigate the report along with the cause and origin of the blaze, he said.

A source within the fire department told the Northeast Times that response to the fire by the nearest engine company, Engine 22 at Comly and Academy roads, was delayed as the unit responded to a simultaneous medical run on Barbary Road. At 1:38 p.m., Medic 20 became available for the medical run, freeing Engine 22 to change directions en route and go to Genesee Drive.

Medic 20 later went to the fire scene and transported one of the injured firefighters to the hospital.

Despite the diversion, Engine 22 was the first engine company to arrive at the fire scene as Ladder 31 already was making forcible entry into the burning property, the source said.

According to Google Maps, Barbary Road is 1.1 miles and four minutes from the Engine 22 firehouse, while Genesee Drive is 1.4 miles and five minutes. The Barbary Road and Genesee Drive locations are 1.3 miles and five minutes apart.

Authorities continue to investigate the legality of the fireworks reportedly found in the burning house. Under Pennsylvania law, it is illegal for residents of the state to sell, buy, possess or use so-called “consumer” or “display” fireworks without a permit issued by the local municipality. The law does not apply to hand-held or ground-based “sparking devices.”

Philadelphia police referred a reporter’s questions about the case to the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The Times is awaiting comment from an ATF spokesman.

One police source said that investigators found a “room-full” of fireworks in the house, while one fire department source said that the ATF “took two vans of fireworks” from the scene. ••