A home on the 1900 block of S. 6th Street collapsed Thursday early afternoon after what the city’s licenses and inspections is calling an apparent “illegal basement digout.” However, L&I spokesperson Karen Guss noted that the department was still “investigating to confirm” the illegal digout. There were no injuries or fatalities.
Guss also said that a complaint was submitted about the address on the day of the collapse.
“The collapse occurred not long afterwards,” she said.
Several neighbors who live on the block told The Review they saw piles of dirt next to the house, which is often a sign of illegal underpinning. Neighbors told SPR that a construction crew had been doing work on the house, which was vacant, for a few weeks before the collapse.
“There were workers there this morning,” said Scott Campbell, a neighbor who lives directly across the street, noting that he could hear and feel the collapse as he was working from home. “It shook my house.”
Neighbor Louis Parrilla, who was outside watching as it collapsed, said several bricks fell off the house first before it completely collapsed shortly after.
“The workers who were there left maybe 10 minutes before it happened,” he said.
Vida Parrilla, who lives with Louis, said the previous owner of the home died about 10 years ago, and the house has been vacant ever since. She noted the piles of dirt in the empty lot next to the house where an excavator currently sits covered in rubble, which led her to suspect possible underpinning was involved.
Stan Smith, who lives in the house on the other side of the lot, was told by city officials that his house was too dangerous to enter.
“They’re telling me I can’t live there until Tuesday,” he said. “So I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Guss said that digging out basements requires continuous supervision by a licensed engineer and proper permits, which contractors can’t get unless they provide plans for safety precautions.
“These precautions have been put in place because digging out basements is a very dangerous activity,” she said. “Everyone in Philadelphia knows this.”
The collapse comes on the heels of a recent collapse on the 700 block of Mercy Street in July.
“Contractors who do this are risking losing their licenses and possible criminal prosecution,” said Guss. “Digging out basements illegally and unsafely damages and destroys property. It can injure, maim, and kill.”