Gamble-Huff HQ hit by morning fire: Blaze 'suspicious'; recordings safe

Firefighters remove hoses and other equipment used to bring under control a fire, later deemed "suspicious," that started on and was confined to the Broad and Spruce building's third floor.

The Sound of Philadelphia was one of alarm yesterday when a fire, which broke out at Philadelphia International Records, was later determined by officials to be "suspicious."

"It's a shocker that someone might want to do this purposefully," said Chuck Gamble, executive vice president of Philadelphia International Records. "Especially given what the Sound of Philadelphia means not only to people in this city, but around the world."

Fire broke out at 7:28 a.m. in the building on Broad and Spruce streets - where legends such as Patti LaBelle, Teddy Pendergrass and Michael Jackson have recorded.

The fire was confined to the third floor, where the company's recording studios and executive offices are housed, said Gamble, who is the nephew of Kenny Gamble, half of the legendary producing team Gamble and Huff.

Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers said that knowing the history of the location, firefighters worked to salvage and protect what they could, including gold and silver records. They were able to get control of the blaze in just under an hour, he said.

"We tried to keep water damage to a minimum, but you have to get the fire out," he said.

Gamble said he was told that the fire started in one of the merchandise-storage rooms and spread to five offices, including his own.

When firefighters arrived, they found a man hanging out of Gamble's office and screaming for help, he said.

Firefighters used a ladder to rescue the man, who was transported to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he was treated for minor injuries.

The man, whose identity and age were not released, was questioned by police and the fire marshal. He was released "for now," though the investigation is ongoing, Ayers said.

Gamble said no one should have been in the building at that time. He said he'd heard that other people had been seen running out of the building and managed to get away.

Ayers said that he'd heard a similar story but that it had not been substantiated.

Surveillance cameras may help to shed light on who was there and what they were doing, Gamble said.

How much damage was done to the historic building and the memorabilia won't be known until Gamble can gain access this afternoon, he said.

He was just thankful yesterday that no one had been injured and that the company keeps its original recordings in a vault outside the city.