Metro: Adding human color to a Northeast Philadelphia fire

Naja Wigglesworth was happy to be alive after jumping from her apartment building during an early-morning fire.  Photo by Rikard Larma for Metro
Naja Wigglesworth was happy to be alive after jumping from her apartment building during an early-morning fire. Photo by Rikard Larma for Metro

I was able to humanize a bit the standard spot news metro fire story yesterday, when I covered a five-alarm blaze in the Burholme section of Northeast Philadelphia for Metro.

It wasn’t the fire and it wasn’t the screaming but God who woke up Naja Wigglesworth early Sunday morning, the 23-year-old says.

She was on the second floor of the Austin Manor Apartment building in the Burlholme neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia when it went up in flames around 4:30 a.m. yesterday.

Read the rest here.

So often, because of time constraints, coverage of these tragic fires are just rehashing of deaths and times and places, without accounting for the people who endure a great deal. I was happy I got to hear from residents about their experiences.

Below, local TV news coverage of the fire and an interview that didn’t make it into the front page story.

The heat was unbelievable, the screaming seemed unreal and Brandon Underwood was in a panic.

That’s when his 2-year-old daughter said, “Daddy, we better get out of here.”

So Underwood, 25, took his wife, his daughter and 4-month-old son and rushed outside of their Jendora Apartment building in Northeast Philadelphia early Sunday morning.

Their building wasn’t on fire, but an adjacent one — just 15-feet away, Underwood said — called Austin Manor and located at 7024 Rising Sun Ave. in the Burlholme neighborhood was.

When they got outside, Underwood said he saw flames shooting out and watched that entire adjacent building collapse. They’ll be staying four blocks away at his mother’s house.

The free daily newspaper’s photography editor Rikard Larma gave me a ring and asked that I interview Naja and Brandon, whom he came across while taking photos of the wreckage.

Below watch 6ABC coverage.

I also had a brief in today’s Metro on an Old City slaying, and last week, I filed a piece on the Devon Theater canceling the rest of its inaugural season.