Fire at Jim’s cheesesteaks on South Street likely started in HVAC system, officials say

Firefighters spent about 5 hours getting blaze under control

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Firefighters spent about five hours trying to extinguish a two-alarm fire at Jim’s South St. cheesesteaks on Friday.

Officials say it started in the kitchen of the iconic restaurant located on Fourth and South streets at around 9 a.m.

Companies started investigating smoke in the building about 25 minutes later. Fire crews said it was under control shortly after 1:30 p.m.

It was around 8 a.m. when Jim’s assistant manager Christina Lawlor said she opened up the place, and it was much hotter than usual inside.

She called her manager and they called the HVAC company, and they just kept going like it was business as usual.

“We just kept prepping for the day, but it was hot in there," Lawlor said.

"Around 9 a.m., we looked up and saw all this smoke coming ... we shut the power off and we evacuated the building.”

Christina Lawlor, assistant manager at Jim's South St.
Christina Lawlor, assistant manager at Jim's South St. Photo credit Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

Everyone got out safely. No one was hurt.

“All my co-workers. We’re like a family in there, and now it’s like our second home is burning down," Lawlor shared through emotion.

A fire official confirmed that the fire was in the ventilation system. The extent of the damage is not immediately clear.

About 100 personnel were on the scene.

Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel says there were serious challenges to overcome in putting out the fire, but they did all they could to preserve this iconic Philly eatery.

“A really good place to go for a steak," Thiel said.

"Believe me, if you look at us, we’re all hopeful that we’re able to save as much as we can of this building.”

When the fire broke out, those who live by this iconic cheesesteak spot went out to see one of their favorite places smothered with smoke.

Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel with other fire officials.
Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel with other fire officials. Photo credit Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio

“It’s super unfortunate," said Mike Gary. "I just had Jim’s a few days ago, which is even crazier. I love Jim’s.”

“It’s sad. It’s sad," Amanda Simon shared.

"We hope that everything is okay and it comes back as soon as it can.”

The floors above the shop are for storage, and are not residences.

Officials say the fire was contained to the building.

The Philadelphia Fire Marshal’s office and ATF are investigating the cause of the fire.

About 330 PECO customers in the area lost power due to emergency work connected to the fire. Philadelphia's Office of Emergency Management was assisting those without power Friday night.

Authorities caution people to avoid the surrounding areas for now.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Tim Jimenez/KYW Newsradio