In the city's Gateway section, the remains of a former tire warehouse that burned two days earlier and devastated several nearby houses, displacing residents, has become a dumping ground. Tires, a rolled-up mattress, and couches lie amid the rubble.
"It looks like Kuwait back there, like a bomb hit it," said Emmanuel Lopez, 24, who lives nearby.
But on Federal Street, Pura Perez smiles as she gazes at the clear stretch of dirt and concrete that marks the location of a former chemical factory in the Marlton section as the site of the only one of the three blazes that was ruled an arson. The others are still under investigation.
"One day it was a mess; the next day it was clean. It was awesome," she said.
A year later, the divergent vistas illustrate the predicaments Camden faces in coping with such disasters: The city has thousands of vacant properties that over time become fire hazards, and it has little money to tear them down even after a fire. It would like to bill the property owners for cleanups, but in many cases the owners are untraceable.
The only site from the three big fires last summer that has been cleaned is the former Concord Chemical Co. building at 17th and Federal Streets — and the work was donated by a nearby demolition business.
Neighbors at the two other sites complain of the rubble, the dust that blows onto their porches, and scavengers, like the woman seen last week wearing work gloves and sifting through a pile of rubble for metal. She said she was trying to scrounge up money to provide for her six grandchildren.
The current owner of the former garment-factory property, at Winslow and Jefferson, has hired Philadelphia general contractor Agresta Construction for demolition.
But it took months to obtain required permits and work has been affected recently by a request from preservationists to save a portion of the structure.
Stephen Agresta said city approval of more fencing at the site is pending and work could resume next week.
"It's an eyesore still," Melvin Finney, 34, a neighbor, said last week.
A spokesman for the Camden County Prosecutor's Office said the investigation into the June 19 Concord Chemical blaze — which was ruled an arson by investigators, including some from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — is inactive.
"We've pretty much hit a wall," said Jason Laughlin.
The causes of the two other blazes are still undetermined, Camden Fire Chief Michael Harper said.
Debris removal must be arranged and paid for by property owners, according to the city, but officials can't find the owners of the former tire warehouse and the chemical factory, two of the 3,500 to 4,000 vacant structures in the city.
The city's tax records list Chestnut Realty Association as the owner of the building at Orchard and Chestnut Streets that once housed Reliable Tires. But the Cherry Hill-based company is defunct, city officials said.
The Concord Chemical Co. building is listed as having multiple owners.
"We've done everything that we can to look for the property owners," city spokesman Robert Corrales said last week. "But unfortunately we've been unsuccessful after digging through property records and sending out notices."
The 12-alarm blaze at the old tire warehouse on June 9 destroyed or damaged 18 properties on two blocks and displaced several residents.
Residents said portions of a building at that site started to fall some weeks ago.
Corrales said the city paid $32,000 for the emergency demolition of the building, which was across the street from the original fire site and connected to it by a walkway, because it posed a danger. But the debris remains.
Lopez, 24, a cook at a Camden charter school, whose family lives in two rowhouses on Chestnut Street near the former tire warehouse, said the site's condition bothered them.
"We just want the thing cleaned up so we could feel much better about where we live," he said.
Thomas, 28, who lives on the 400 block of Winslow, pointed to a pile of charred wood and debris from the June 11 blaze, saying it had become a perch for smokers.
"That's another fire — easy," said Thomas, who is nearly finished paying off the mortgage on her tidy home.
Shyang J. Lin, whose E-Zone Management bought the former garment factory more than a decade ago, said that he wanted to finish the cleanup "ASAP" and that it was expected to cost $200,000.
Agresta, the contractor, said discussions between city officials and community groups about saving portions of the building, including a five- or six-story tower, had delayed some work. He said it would cost about $1.2 million to refurbish the portions that are still standing.
"The neighbors, they want it finished. I want it finished," Agresta said.
Recently, Camden businessman Bill Hargrove's demolition company cleaned up the former chemical-factory site on Federal. Hargrove said he decided to pick up the $100,000 demolition tab because the site was an eyesore on one of the city's main arteries.
Hargrove who owns a property next door that houses Youthbuild, an alternative-education program for high school dropouts, admits he has a vested interest in seeing the area clean, but he said he doesn't plan to redevelop the site.
Sammy Morales, a sales associate at ABC Companies, a business on Federal Street and Admiral Wilson Boulevard that sells charter and tour buses, said he had started bypassing Federal Street to bring clients from Philadelphia Airport after one client from Miami asked when the site would be cleaned up.
"Even though it was just an empty lot, it made me feel good," he said of the cleanup. "I'm not embarrassed to ride by the place and bring customers by."
Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @darransimon.
Staff writer Claudia Vargas contributed to this article.