After Another Catastrophic Fire, Reexamining Fire Safety in Philadelphia

"Why does Old City keep burning?" That's the question posed by Philadelphia Inquirer architecture critic Inga Saffron.
February 24, 2018, 11am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Fire struck the buildings pictured here, at the intersection of 3rd and Chestnut in Old City.

Inga Saffron establishes the boundaries of Old City as the blocks between the Delaware waterfront and Independence Mall, calling it home to one of the richest collections of architecture in the entire city. The neighborhood also attracted creative businesses and tech industry start-ups in recent years.

"And yet," writes Saffron, "in the 15 years since the city declared the area a historic district, Old City has lost no less than five distinctive, 19th-century commercial buildings to fire and other unfortunate events." The most recent fire "swept through a trio of mid-19th century merchant buildings over the quiet holiday weekend," according to Saffron. The "most devastating loss yet."

Saffron continues to explain more history of the buildings, which sets a conversation about the lack of maintenance and fire-safety technology in many of the buildings in Old City. Despite overwhelming financial reasons to install sprinkler (installing sprinklers tax breaks is less expensive than insurance premiums), many landlords still don't keep their buildings up to contemporary standards.

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Published on Monday, February 19, 2018 in The Philadelphia Inquirer
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