Students, residents displaced following fire near Temple’s Main Campus

Temple was using Conwell Inn and university residence halls to house students who lived near the fire and were evacuated on Monday.

The Philadelphia Fire Department contains a fire that broke out in a vacant building on 16th and Oxford streets Monday evening.

Updated at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2019

A fire at a vacant building off campus displaced Temple students and North Philadelphia residents as the blaze continued burning into Tuesday morning. 

The Philadelphia Fire Department contained the three-alarm fire to the four-story building at 1543 N. 16th Street, but it was not under control as of early Tuesday morning.

No injuries were reported on Monday, but residents and students of the 1600 block of Oxford and Willington streets were still not allowed back in their homes as firefighters continued working.

All evacuated students were accounted for, Captain Derrick Bowmer said, but it is unclear how many students and residents were forced from their homes. 

The fire started around 8:40 p.m. City fire marshals had not determined the cause of the fire as of 12:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Bowmer said. 

Firefighters began attacking the “roof area” of the building and established a collapse zone inside the building, but had not entered the building right away. City officials closed Oxford Street from Broad to the site of the fire and 16th Street from Jefferson Street to Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

The streets surrounding the scene were lit with the glare of fire trucks and police cars as hundreds of police officers, students and residents watched firefighters try to temper the blaze. 

Chris Savino, a sophomore civil engineering major, was at his home near 16th and Oxford streets when he noticed the fire around 9:00 p.m. The fire was small at first but grew as the hour went on, he said.

“The whole roof blew up in flames,” said Savino, who was evacuated around 9:40 p.m.

Students who were displaced were directed to Campus Safety Services’ station at 1513 Cecil B. Moore Avenue where they were told to provide their names, addresses and Temple ID numbers to receive assistance. 

As of early Tuesday, students were not yet been told they could return to their homes. 

The university is using Conwell Inn, an on-campus hotel, along with university residence halls to house displaced students who could not stay with friends, said Rachael Stark, senior associate dean of students. Students were mostly self-sufficient Monday night, she added, and one student was given housing by 11 p.m. on Monday.  

Corey Jackson, a senior exercise and sports science major, was sitting in his bedroom when he heard the sound of sirens around 8:45 p.m, he said. It was around 10 p.m. when police began knocking on his door, telling him he had to evacuate immediately. 

Jackson’s roommate Dan Quirk, a senior finance major, said when they evacuated, they could see that the vacant building was ablaze. 

“I can’t really do much about it,” Jackson said. “I mean it’s for our safety that we’re being evacuated, but I still have class tomorrow, so I hope I can go home soon.”

Kamerin Stroud, a long-time resident of the area, lives two houses away from the burning building on 16th Street but was not evacuated from his home, he said.

But he wasn’t worried because firefighters kept telling him the fire would not spread, he added.

“This is actually the first time we had a fire like this on the block,” said Stroud, who has lived at his home for 25 years.

Tim Howard, who lives close to 16th and Oxford streets, said he first heard sirens and was told to evacuate around 10:00 p.m. Despite being told he could not return to his house as of early Tuesday morning, Howard said he is still going to work on Tuesday.

Charlie Leone, the director of Campus Safety Services, could not be immediately reached for comment. 

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