It did not look good.

On Monday, members of the Fralinger String Band watched as a 4-alarm fire quickly destroyed the building at the corner of Second and Wharton streets, where they were storing elaborate parade floats they had been working on for the last 10 months.


The building is a wreck. The rear wall--three stories of brick and steel--collapsed. The Mummers assumed they would have to start from the beginning again, with only three weeks until the parade.

Almost 24 hours later, when fire officials gave the all-clear signal, the Fralingers frantically scrambled into the garage to see what was left of their parade.

"Fantastic. Much better than we anticipated," said Thomas D'Amore, captain of the Fralinger String Band. "I'm sure we've got some work ahead of us. It's all positive right now. We were able to get in and see what we got, and this is fantastic."

Dozens of band members darted into the dark hole of the garage door to emerge rolling pieces of 12 floats made mostly of foam, paper mache, and two-by-fours. They would have been short work for even the most tame flames.

The right side of the building - where the fire broke out - was an auto repair shop with several cars that purportedly exploded during the blaze. That part of the building is detroyed. The second and third floors suffered severe damage when the roof collapsed. A twisted piece of steel beam is all that is left of the third floor.

The cause of the fire is under invetigation.

The Fralingers had stored their stuff on the ground floor, to the left of the main fire.

"There's a firewall that separated the part of the building that was on fire from the section of the building that we rented," said Dan Marakowsky, the Fralinger financial secretary.

D'Amore, the Fralinger captain, said he received calls from all the other Mummer string bands offering support and spaces to store their props.

For now, the Fralingers wheeled everything out onto Wharton and Front Streest, where their spooky Haunted House theme is drying in the sun--including, ironically, a giant tombstone with "Rest-In-Peace" emblazoned in paper mache.

They're not dead yet.