In Kensington, neighbors of fire-felled warehouse clean up and move on

It’s been almost two weeks since two Philadelphia firefighters lost their lives in a Kensington warehouse fire. Now, as the fallen building lies in rubble, the neighborhood’s surrounding businesses have been left to pick up their own pieces.

After being closed 10 days, Chinese take-out store owner Lily Zhang was struggling to lure customers back on Thursday.

“Business very, very slow right now. Right now, just $10 business,” she said.

With entire streets closed off because of the collapsed building behind her, Zhang says it’s hard for people to even know she’s open. But that’s not the only reason she’s losing money.

“When the fire happened, they shut down the power —- so one week, no power, all the food is thrown away,” she said.

In the back of the restaurant, there is a nearly empty refrigerator.

“No power, everything’s nasty,” she says with a slight giggle. “Smells no good. I can show you the beef.”

Zhang turns to dig a package of grayed ground beef out of a trash can.

“You can smell it,” she says. “That’s crazy, right?”

If Zhang seems in high spirits for a person whose business has taken such a hit, it may be because she knows her fate could have been much worse. She lives with her husband and two young children in the apartment above the shop.

“About 3:20 in the morning,” she says, “the police keep calling me — ‘Chinese people, come here, wake up, wake up —fire!'”

The only way for her family to get out was to go through the front door of the restaurant -— in front of which stood a heavy-duty metal security door operated by an electric switch. But, because the fire caused power outages throughout the neighborhood, Zhang and her family were essentially trapped.

“That’s dangerous —- that really scare me,” Zhang said.

Luckily, the police were able to cut the door off and let the Zhangs escape unscathed.

Zhang has had the business for four years. She says this year will be the hardest.

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