PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Jim’s Steaks, the iconic cheesesteak shop in South Philadelphia, went up in flames Friday morning. Authorities are working to determine the cause of the massive fire.
Dozens are still without power in the neighborhood around 4th and South Streets Friday night. The owner is vowing to rebuild.
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Fire crews arrived to smoke coming from the steak shop on 4th and South Streets around 9:30 a.m.
The two-alarm fire was placed under control at 1:33 p.m. after more than four hours of work by fire crews.
“We’re very concerned about the structural stability of this building,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Theil said. “There really is almost no way to assess that.”
The restaurant features its iconic art decor exterior and is one of the best-known cheesesteak spots in Philadelphia. It’s been at the corner of South and 4th Streets for nearly 50 years.
Chopper 3 was over the scene Friday morning and CBS3 reporter Marcella Baietto says she counted more than a dozen fire trucks. More than 100 firefighters, medics and support personnel were also on the scene.
Smoke could be seen billowing out of the back of the building for a few hours as of noon.
UPDATE FROM PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT:
– Fire is now under control
– No one was hurt
– Fire contained just to Jim’s most likely
– Cause of fire: issues with HVAC & duct system
– Crews put fire out from the outside since they can’t get to it from the inside@CBSPhilly https://t.co/txLnEegY7o pic.twitter.com/MpLj8sneBj
— Marcella Baietto (@MarcellaBaietto) July 29, 2022
Christina Lawlor, the assistant manager of Jim’s, says 10 employees were prepping for a day of customers when she felt the air inside get hot.
“Around 9 o’clock I’ll say we looked up and we saw all this smoke coming from where the walk-in is so we shut the power off and evacuated the building,” Lawlor said.
She was full of emotion while watching the smoke pour from the windows.
“My boss is saying it is probably going to take some time, but every time I hear a window shatter my heart drops because it’s like this is my life,” Lawlor said. “This is how I provide, have all my co-workers, we’re like a family in there and now it’s like our second home is burning down.”
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Lawlor says she believes an issue with the AC unit might’ve caused the fire and doesn’t think anyone was hurt.
The fire department says it’s too early to determine the cause of the fire, but problems likely stemmed from issues with the HVAC and duct systems.
“The fire we believe is confined to the building on 4th and South. It’s essentially what we believe is it’s moving through the heating ventilation and air conditioning system,” Theil said.
A nearby resident says this is a huge loss for the community.
“Hopefully, they’ll rebuild and things will come back to life,” resident Steve Weissman said.
By Friday evening, Philadelphia Gas Works was working to turn off gas in front of Jim’s while many residents and businesses on South Street and along 4th Street had to deal with having no power for most of the day and into the night.
“Just waiting for the power. We lost power. And lots of people on this street lost power today,” South Street resident and co-owner of Mexi-talian Grill Fernando Cristobal said.
Cristobal lives above his restaurant, which is across the street from Jim’s.
“We want the fridge to turn on and stuff like that so I don’t get any bad stuff otherwise I’ll have to throw it away and lose a day. I lost a day already,” he said.
Friday’s fire represents the latest blow to residents and businesses here following the June shooting which claimed the lives of three people. Business has slowed since, and now this.
“It’s bad for everybody. All the people around us, we talk about it and we’re like this summer has been crazy. It’s been bad,” Cristobal said.
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CBS3’s Howard Monroe and Marcella Baietto contributed to this report.
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