'It's a complete loss': A huge fire in Old City left this web dev shop without an office - Technical.ly Philly

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Feb. 19, 2018 12:54 pm

‘It’s a complete loss’: A huge fire in Old City left this web dev shop without an office

The five-story building at 239 Chestnut Street, which went up in flames Sunday morning, housed web dev shop The 215 Guys. It was also the former home of videogame makerspace Philly Game Forge.

The Philadelphia Fire Dept. had the fire under control in nine hours.

(Video by the Philadelphia Fire Department)

Update: This article has been updated to include links to crowdfunding campaigns for those affected by the fire. (2/19/18, 3:35 p.m.)
The five-story building on 239 Chestnut Street that was engulfed in flames Sunday morning, affecting hundreds of residents without causing any human deaths or injuries, had at least two ties to the tech scene.

Web design shop The 215 Guys, a seven-person company founded in 2015, was housed on the second floor of the building. On Sunday morning, cofounder John Rodgers got a call from his business partner Marc Levy.

It was bad news: his company’s office had been ravaged by the flames.

“Fortunately, everyone is safe,” is the first thing Rodgers told Technical.ly on Monday. “We drove down there early in the morning and sure enough, there were seven fire hoses pointed at our office window. We were just thankful to see our neighbors safe on the sidewalk.”

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the fire affected five buildings in the Old City block, including a restaurant, a hostel and the Best Western Plus Independence Park Hotel. Two Philadelphia Fire Department officers were treated for minor injuries.

Per Rodgers’ rough estimates, the company – which does work for companies like PiperWai and Old City Coffee – lost between $25,000 and $50,000 in office furniture and equipment. Clients and friends had been in touch, offering office space and their support after hearing about the fire.

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The company will continue to operate despite the loss, Rodgers said. On Monday, part of the staff was working out of Northern Liberties’ One Shot Coffee.

“It’s a complete loss,” the cofounder said. “We lost a business, but we have a home to go to. We really feel for our neighbors who lost their home, their pets and everyone who was affected.”

So far, at least two crowdfunding campaigns have been launched to help raise money for those affected by the fire. A GoFundMe campaign for resident Al Gury, an artist and educator known for his love of pets, beat its goal of $20,000 in 24 hours. Another, for resident Phil Weber, was also launched but hasn’t yet met its goal.

(Though no human lives were lost in the fire, about a dozen animals including cats and birds died in the fire. Over two dozen pets were affected, according to emergency response nonprofit Red Paw Relief. Right before press time, the group was able to save one more kitten who was trapped inside.)

The building at 239 Chestnut Street also has ties to the tech ecosystem by way of the former occupants of the second floor: videogame makerspace Philly Game Forge, which shut down in June 2016.

“It’s surreal,” said Philly Game Forge founder Dain Saint, who started the space alongside Will Stallwood, who’s also his business partner in videogame studio Cipher Prime. “I don’t have a better word for it.”

The fire was an eerie reminder of a joke frequently heard at the space, which had always had restaurants like the now-shuttered Italian restaurant Barra as its downstairs neighbors.

“It was a running joke at the Philly Game Forge that that building was going to burn down,” Saint said. ” There had always been issues with the restaurants. The ventilation wasn’t great so sometimes we’d get smoke from the brick oven.”

However, Saint did not want to speculate or point to a possible cause of the fire, which is yet to be determined by authorities.

“That building had character and it had problems,” Saint said. “We joked about how the floor was going to fall down. When we were looking at a new location for the Forge, the first comment was always how nice and leveled the floors were. It contributed to the charm of the place. It was kinda crappy, but it was our crappy. To see it go like this, it’s really upsetting.”

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