PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A 3-alarm fire at Our Mother of Consolation Catholic School in Chestnut Hill was placed under control shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday, the Philadelphia Fire Department said.
The school is located on East Chestnut Hill Avenue near Germantown Avenue. It was badly damaged during the blaze. Crews were called to the scene at around 3:30 p.m.
An adjacent church building was able to be saved.
“A lot of churches are older, so that was a concern for us,” Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel said. “Also, churches have wide open spaces, so fire can essentially travel unchecked throughout a church. The other thing is — and you don’t want to generalize — a lot of churches don’t have fire sprinklers. Fire sprinklers make a huge difference in buildings in terms of stopping fires spread, protecting lives and property.”
At least 120 firefighters and 50 vehicles responded to the scene, according to the Philadelphia Fire Department.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury during the blaze. He was transported to a local hospital.
“It was a big puff of black smoke and then I saw it all over the top of building,” Kelly Carroll, a Pre-K teacher at Our Mother of Consolation, said.
Carroll was outside with about 30 students from the after-school program when she saw and smelled smoke.
“I ran in, told everyone to get out and pulled the alarm,” Carroll said.
“They were scared and then I knew I had to stay calm because they were scared,” Carroll said.
No students were hurt. Two administrators inside the school when the fire started were able to get out.
“Fortunately we practice our fire drills,” Dr. Patricia Sheetz, the principal at Our Mother of Consolation, said.
The school has been home to students and families for generations. Despite the damage to the 160-year-old building, so many are grateful,” Sheetz said.
“All our kids are OK,” Sheetz said. “Our faculty, they are fine. Our staff and the firefighters are OK. As sad as it is we are a very strong community. We will rebuild.”
Fire officials say they expect to be at the school for hours and overnight to monitor and put out hot spots.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation.