20 homeless after blaze in Kensington

Nicole Frazier is comforted by sister Christine Frazier and nephew Jamal Moore. Her house was destroyed.
Nicole Frazier is comforted by sister Christine Frazier and nephew Jamal Moore. Her house was destroyed. (ANDREW RENNEISEN / Staff)
Posted: July 23, 2013

A fast-moving blaze early Sunday destroyed five homes and smoke-damaged two others on the 2800 block of Memphis Street in Kensington, leaving 20 people homeless.

Five families, including four children under 12, were displaced, according to the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Red Cross.

One family was staying at the Red Cross House for emergency shelter. The other displaced families had places to go or were provided temporary hotel accommodations, Red Cross spokesman David Schrader said.

Witnesses said a propane tank for grilling exploded during the fire and firefighters told neighbors to go back into their homes for safety.

The Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the incident, which began around 1 a.m.

Firefighters pulled a dog out of one of the homes and when the dog ran back inside, firefighters had to rescue it a second time. A cat was found under the bed of a fire-damaged house, said Kat Kendon of the the nonprofit Red Paw Emergency Relief Team. The team is caring for both pets.

Neighbors said they believed arson was the cause. A fire had been set in a trash can on the block several months ago, two neighbors said. A woman in one of the damaged homes also said she believed it was arson.

Early Sunday evening, Nicole Frazier, 34, was still trying to find help. She rented one of the fire-destroyed homes and didn't return home until Sunday morning after working the night shift as a nurse at the Watermark retirement community in Center City. By the time she got home, the Red Cross had taken care of those displaced and left the scene, she said. She hoped renter's insurance would help.

Shaquita Johnson, who lives across the street, said she was concerned with the number of damaged homes. "It looks," she said, "like we live in an abandoned block."

Contact Sulaiman Abdur-Rahman at sabdur-rahman@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sabdurr.

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