ATLANTIC CITY — Two firefighters were injured while navigating a trash-filled alley and thick smoke during a two-alarm fire that spread through a vacant home Thursday night on Florida Avenue.
“This is the kind of building firefighters get killed in,” fire Chief Scott Evans said Friday.
Friday morning, the warped vinyl siding around the broken windows of the home showed where the fire extended onto the second and third floors.
Beer bottles tossed into a pile and other trash dotted a patch of green space on the front lawn.
The three-story home was “balloon-frame” construction, a building style that allows fire to spread rapidly and undetected through the walls. When firefighters arrived about 11:30 p.m., they found fire coming out the door and the windows on the first floor. They said three or four rooms were burning on arrival.
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One firefighter injured his ankle when he slipped down a flight of stairs, Evans said. The other was injured while cutting a hole in the roof. With impaired visibility, the firefighter accidentally stepped on the saw he was using and cut his foot.
“Because this was a tight space between these two buildings, visibility was not only impossible inside, but outside around the building was hampered,” Evans said. “Smoke was held in and around these buildings.”
Both were taken to the hospital for their injuries, treated and have since been released.
Firefighters spent about four hours tearing through layers of siding and insulation to get to the fire that spread inside the walls.
“It was very difficult to get it in between the voids. There were a lot of hidden voids and spaces,” Evans said.
The nearest fire station, Station Four, which is just two blocks over on California Avenue, has been closed since January. Twenty-four firefighters responded from different parts of the city.
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Engine Company 2 was closed or “browned out” Thursday night.
Evans said they have had at least a half dozen fires in vacant homes this year.
“It’s a structure that’s been left unattended, the structure is compromised, the roof is compromised, water leaks. This particular building there was probably illegal electric hooked up at one time,” he said, pointing to the box on the side of the house with a network of thin wires stemming from its side.
In the narrow alley between the home and a brick building, the fallen insulation and pieces of wood fell onto bulging trash bags, a lamp coated in mud and an old recliner.
Trash bins overflow in the back of the house, and more trash bags and aluminum cans have turned the backyard into what looks like a small dumping ground.
The home belongs to Aziz Salhi, of Philadelphia, according to an Atlantic County property deed dated May 2013.
The home has been up for sale for at least six months, and the owner does not live in the area, according to the real estate agent associated with the property.